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My Brother's Girlfriend

It wasn't supposed to be like this. You were supposed to be just like the rest. You weren't supposed to be special. I wasn't supposed to hurt him. I wasn't supposed to fall in love with you, my brother's girlfriend

chapter one: Sarah (Move Along)

My least favorite thing to do, is stay in a small room for a long period of time. It's not something I enjoy. It even reaches the extent where you could say I hate it with every cell in my body. It's only half an hour into the movie, and already I feel a cold sweat dribbling down my back. My palms feel clammy, and so I nervously wiped them on the thighs of my jeans. My mouth is dry as parchment, and my tongue feels like a rock in a desert. I can't get up, though, because my parents know this is my favorite movie. I love Practical Magic. It's witty and funny and romantic. But I can't focus. The room is spinning as I try and keep my eyes on the screen, but to no ends.



It's until I'm ready to pass out that I mutter something about the bathroom and stumble out of my own living room and into our fortunately monumental kitchen. The ceiling is over three meters high, and behind the sink to my left is a ten foot wide, floor-to-ceiling window that overlooked our fifteen acres of land. An island is at the center of the kitchen, where I walk to. A faucet is there, with a mini sink, and it's mainly for drinking water. We have our own well in the back yard so we get all fresh water. Grabbing a glass from the cabinet beneath the island, I fill it halfway and chug it down. Slowly, I feel feeling come back into my limbs and my mouth became more moisturized.



You could say I'm claustrophobic, but that's only part of the story. Yes, I do carry around that phobia with me every single day of my life, but it's not one of those things I've had my entire life. I wouldn't say it started recently, but... let's just say, my parents don't even know. And I have a pretty good relationship with them.



I don't sneak out of the house at nighttime, or disobey their orders. But I know how to party, get drunk, and hide it from my family's knowledge. I just bend the rules. I don't break them, I just find loopholes. I'm not a goodie-two-shoes, but I'm not a disappointment for my successful parents either.



I breathe deeply inward, and then out. And then again. And then again, and again, and again. I continue this routine, listening to the sounds and voices coming from the surround-sound of our TV in the living room, which oddly was the smallest room in the house. Now that I feel the gentle breeze from the fan above me, and water trickling down my throat, and anything but silence, I feel better. I can see outside, and I have room to do what I want. I have room to run. To run away if I need to. I have room to fight back. Unlike when I was with him.



My soon-to-be flashback was cut off, thankfully, when the door in the far corner creaked open. Matthew, my brother, showed his tan face and slick black hair in the doorway. He was smiling broadly, and a slim, tall figure followed him as he entered the kitchen.



"Hey Slut," he greeted me casually, using the nickname he frequently called me, though I knew he never would actually mean something like that or insult me in anything beyond a brotherly manner.



"Hey Prude," I responded with a weak smile.



"You call your sister a slut?" the girl that had been trailing along with Matt said in a silky voice. She was, like Matt, tall and lean. Her long, dark brown, curly hair was tied up in a neat ponytail, and her side bangs fell out, framing her oval face nicely. She had an eyebrow raised at Matt with an amused glint in her eyes.



"Of course, why wouldn't I?" he replied sweetly, kissing her lightly on the mouth.



So this is Isabelle,I thought.



She was pretty, undeniably. High cheekbones, cute smile, sparkling eyes and nice figure. She was dressed appropriately; regular jeans and a nice-fitting white v-neck. Not like an actual slut, like a few of Matt's previous girlfriends. She seemed sweet, but it was hard to decide whether she was out of his league, or just plain out not his type.



"You're Sarah, right? I'm Isabelle," she introduced, holding out her hand. It was a formal gesture, but the way she held herself as she did it was very casual and comfortable.



I always liked seeing how Matt's numerous relationships turned out, so I made sure to be polite each time I met them. I shook her hand, feeling a bit silly as I smiled. "Yea, Matt's told me a lot about you."



"Good things, I hope," Isabelle said with a smirk, elbowing Matt lightly in the ribs.



Matt grinned, and his eyes shone as he looked her straight in the eyes. Also unlike his previous girlfriends, this one was actually capable of looking him in the eye levelly. I should probably stop comparing her to the rest of them, because if she was dating Matt, that means the others never worked out. So maybe she'll be good for him, maybe a change is what Matt needs.



"Oh I almost forgot," Matt said, reaching into the pockets of his jeans. He pulled out a small white box, something you might expect for jewelery to be in. "Can you give this to Mom? I saw it and thought she might like it."



Taking the box from his hands, I nodded. I plucked off the lid, and inside was a pair of gorgeous dangling diamond earrings. Even though the money had come from his allowance our parents gave him, it was still a sweet thing of him. He was always being nice to our mom, and not one of those teenage boys that was a douche bag to his family. I knew it wasn't something he just did to impress his girlfriends, it was because he cared.



All in all, he's a great brother and son.



"Sure. Want me to tell her you're here with... her?" I said, pointing my chin at Isabelle, who smiled a little, but also slightly frowned at the same time.



"Yea, thanks Slut."



"Sure."



Putting the lid back on, I went back into the living room. The movie was at the part where they had just brought back one of the sister's psychotic boyfriend from, the dead, who they had accidentally killed when he "kidnapped" them. But really what they brought back was some sort of demon thing and so he tried to kill the sister, and then the other sister thwacked him in the head with a pan and he died.. again.



"Mom?" I said into the darkness, trying to suppress the anxiety rising in me at the sight of the boyfriend choking the sister. "Matt's here, and he brought Isabelle."



"Oh, wonderful!" she exclaimed enthusiastically. Mom always got overly excited when Matt brought home a girl. I think it was because I never brought home a boyfriend that she could meet, and I was her daughter. With me at the age of sixteen and never been kissed (as far as she knows), she thinks she did something wrong somewhere along the way. At least she doesn't give me crap about it.



Mom was an average-height, plump woman with shoulder-length blond hair. She had this friendly aura around her, and no matter what mood you were in, she could always lighten up your day with a simple smile.



"Isabelle! Oh, I've heard so much about you from Matthew."



Smiling from ear-to-ear, Isabelle replied, "Likewise." Again with the formal actions, but casual movements as she held out her hand.



Mom seemed too thrilled at this gesture, and couldn't stop smiling.



Isabelle also seemed amused by my mother, and glanced at me. Her smile thickened. Her eyes, I noticed, were a chocolate brown, almost golden. It seemed as if she were trying to tell me something with those eyes, but Matt ruined her attempt.



"So Mom, Isabelle's parents are out of town, so would it be okay if she spent the night?" Matt asked. I noticed how his arm was now around Isabelle's waist, who noticed me eyeing his arm. She smiled again before looking at my mother.



My mom threw her arms in the air, and said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, "Why, of course! She can stay as long as she liked. Sarah, dear, can you grab a few extra pillows and a blanket from the basement?"



Isabelle looked embarrassed as she said "No no, it's okay, really. I'll be fine with what Matt has. Really, I wouldn't want to bother Sarah."



I shrugged, and gave her a small smile. "Don't worry about it."



With that, I wove around the love birds and Mom blabbing about how cute they were, and descended the stairs into the basement.



I thought about how quick it was Matt had gotten over Chelsea, his last girlfriend. Now she was one who definitely qualified as a slut. She wore lace leggings and literally lingerie. I'm not kidding, Mom actually yelled at Matt for bring a hooker into the house because she actually thought Chelsea was one. But despite her taste in clothing, Chelsea was pretty cool. She had a great personality, was really funny and actually smart, believe it or not. Matt was really into her, but then she showed her skanky side again and slept with half of the football team. Matt ended things, and was quiet for a while. I tried to cheer him up by playing video games with him, or getting him tickets to games and stuff like that, just spend time with him. He was only a year older than me, and we were really close. Practically best friends. When we ask about each others' day, he tells me the truth about things that happened instead of saying "It was fine," and I did the same. I was his best friend that was a girl, he was mine that was a guy.



So what does a little sister do when a girl cheats on her best friend?



She teepee's her house, of course.



I remember the night clear as day. I had gotten a ride from one of Matt's friends who never liked Chelsea anyway, and together we threw toilet paper over her house, threw eggs at her windows, and tomatoes on her car. When the lights had flicked on, we'd ran out of there and drove away. Plenty of people despise Chelsea, so I doubt she knew it was me.



And then, about ten days later, Matt told me about Isabelle, and a few days after that I was meeting her. I guess guys just move on faster than girls, because I know tons of people who would still be distraught over someone cheating on them with seven people. Then again, most people I know are naive sappy girls that still think there's a Prince Charming out there and is going to buy them diamonds every day.



As I gave Isabelle the blankets and, I gave her a worried, protective look. I think she understood what I was asking of her, because a light smile tugged at her lips, and she faintly nodded.



I think she understood I was asking her not to hurt him.









Chapter Two

chapter two: Isabelle (Not Like That)









A person's posture says a lot about someone. If it's slouched and hunched over, they're typically a lazy person. If it's completely straight, then that tends to mean they're very uptight and strictly follow the rules. If it's a good curved one, but strained, then they're trying to change who they used to be, and that shows determination. But Sarah, hers was naturally curved, and comfortable. I could tell she knows not everything is going to go as planned and she won't always get what she wants, and money won't always be the answer to her problems. She was reasonable, but I also got the feeling something tragic happened to make her realize that. Sarah's posture told me she was damaged, but to her that didn't mean she was broken or weak. To her, it meant she knew she could survive.



I pursed my lips as I examined her. I sat Matt in her, even though in ways their looks couldn't be more opposite. He had dark hair and tan skin, her hair was blond and her skin fair. But I saw Matt in the way she firmly set her jaw, or the placement of her feet. Her smile was similar to his. It was the little things that they did the same. Frankly, all I could see that was different was the obvious traits people noticed first handed, and their posture.



I know I'm good at reading people. That doesn't make me cocky, though. It's good to know your strengths and faults. I know I can't do anything artistic to save my life (writing, music, drawing, etc.), but I'm aware that I'm better than the average teenage girl at Math. I know what I can and can't do.



I felt a pang of guilt when Matt asked his mom if I could spend the night. I remember the drive over, how he'd been saying we were just going to stop by, I'd meet his parents, and then he'd take me home. He did mention the idea of me spending the night, because I had said I didn't like being home alone. But I said no, that I didn't want to intrude. In the end, I got him to promise that he wouldn't. But then he caught me off guard by doing it anyway.



And then Sarah was asked to get me a blanket and pillow? God dammit, I almost kicked Matt right there. While stating that I'd be fine, I was secretly plotting the different maneuvers of torture I could inflict upon him.



After Sarah retreated to the door behind me, Matt's mother said "Where are your parents?"



Tearing my attention away from the door Sarah had disappeared behind, I fixed my gaze on Katherine. "Mexico. They're anniversary is this weekend."



"Oh, that's nice."



"Yea."



I wasn't one of those people that talked much. I kept most of my feelings to myself, and only occasionally let myself slip up and show some sign of emotion. But I don't know how to carry on a conversation. I can give my 100% effort, but compared to someone else with better communication skills, it might as well be 10%. So like I said, I'm social, but I don't talk much. Which is why a tarp of silence settled over Matt, his mom, and I.



"Where's Dad?" Matt asked her as I shifted my weight.



"Hm, I believe he's still at work."



"He's a doctor, right?" I asked, giving that 100%.



Smiling proudly, as if it were her son and not her husband she was speaking of, she replied, "Chief of Surgery. Very fine one at that. Won many awards." The way she said it didn't give the impression she was bragging, more as if she were just.... sharing.



"Oh, nice."



Matt, obviously noting my discomfort, tightened his grip on my waist, and said something about how we were going to head up. "You can tell Sarah we'll be in my room. She can just come in." Matt slipped away from me, kissed his mom on the cheek, whispering goodnight before coming back to me and turning as in the opposite direction. I noticed the basement door was still firmly shut. I sighed slightly, for Sarah had come off as someone I would enjoy the presence of, maybe become friends with. Maybe more.



No, Isabelle, stop. You're not like that anymore.



I took a deep breath, and looked up at Matt. We were trudging up the stairs, and he had a light smile on his face. It took me a moment to realize he was looking at me too. He smirked at my startled expression, and when we were at the top of the spiraling stairs, he planted his lips on mine, kissing me softly.



"Your sister seems sweet," I commented a minute later as he shut his bedroom door behind us.



"Yup, she's great," he responded.



"You guys close?" I asked, sitting down on the edge of his bed. His room was about twice the size of my living room and kitchen combined. It had a window on the slanted ceiling, and the walls were a pearly white. The wall opposite the doorway, though, looked like a giant chalkboard. I remember once seeing that kind of paint, where you could make any surface a chalkboard and write on it. Chunks of chalk lay around his cluttered room, but unlike most teenage boys' chambers, his you could see the floor and at least half of the walls, and there were no posters of half-naked girls. He was respectable, and sweet, and sensitive, and now his bedroom proved that to me.



"Yea, my mom used to say we might as well be twins. I've always had her back, she's always had mine." He shrugged, implying there was not much else to say. "You have any siblings?"



Despite our attraction towards each other, and I already knew so much about him, he didn't know much about me. I said before I'm a quiet, guarded person. It's true. All Matt really knew about me was I was dating him exclusively, my parents are together and they work as school teachers at a school I've never gone to, I get good grades, and a few other small details. He doesn't know me, but maybe he will one day, like I know him.



I nodded, half-smiling as a handful of overwhelming memories threatened to take over. "Yea. I do."



***



Matt had taken the floor. He'd been a sweetheart and insisted on sleeping on the carpeted floor instead of sharing the bed with me, making me sleep somewhere else, or sleeping somewhere else himself. His home was different than most rich people's houses. Instead of the eerie hallways at night, or the feeling someone was always watching you, it was comfortably quiet. Even when his dad, Tom, snuck in late and you could hear the soft padding of his feet outside the door, it was still a nice place to be at night. Matthew's home gave off the impression that nothing wrong would ever happen there, nothing overbearingly tragic, would ever occur, or ever had.



I woke up about an hour before Matt. The clock read ten, so I figured one of his parents must be awake. I wanted them to approve of me, even though he told me they were very loose and accepting of people. So why not try and give another attempt at a conversation?



I went into the bathroom down the hall silently, and splashed some water into my face. I ran my fingers through my messy hair, not wanting to be rude and use the comb lying about in the bathroom. I rinsed my mouth with water, trying to get rid of the morning breath, dried my face, and left.



It took a little bit of time to find my way back to the staircase, and when I did, twenty minutes had already passed since I had woken up.



I was surprised to find the kitchen deserted, the living room empty, as well as the dining room. I didn't want to intrude, but I didn't feel like going back to Matt's room either. I shouldn't leave, because that would be rude, and I wasn't able to anyway. Matt drove me here.



Overcoming my awkward feeling, I stepped up to the sink, supporting myself on my arms, and gazed out the window. It was a beautiful landscape. Small hills, healthy trees, a magnificent garden full of vegetables and flowers, most of which I had never seen before. I was still admiring the view when a voice spoke startled me from behind.



"Nice, huh?"



I spun around to see Sarah standing on the opposite side of the room behind the island in pajama shorts and a purple wife beater. Her honey-blond hair spilled over her shoulders, and again with the easy-going but tense posture as she leaned back against the fridge.



Realizing she was referring to the view, I nodded. "It's beautiful."



She too nodded, and surprised me with her modest words. "It is, a lot better than most people have. I'm sure there's people that deserve a place like this more than we do. War veterans, and stuff."



Sarah didn't peg me as the type to be concerned about those kind of problems, when she was only sixteen. I'm a year older and all I worry about financially is the scholarships I'm going to need to get if I want a good college, not other people worse off than I am.



All I could come up with as a reply was "Yea."



Looking bored all of a sudden, she gave a small salute, something I would learn she did often as a farewell, before walking off in the direction of what I believed was the living room. She swung her hips a little when she walked, and I noticed the faster she went, the more looser she became, and the more still she was, her body would tense up more.



"Wait," I called, wincing at my loud voice and feeling embarrassed.



She stopped, and her shoulder muscles tightened. "Hm?"



I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. Why was I always at a loss for words when I was around her? I was quiet around everyone, but I always had a dozen possible responses ready in my head in a matter of seconds. With her, I had to strain myself for just one.



"I thought we could... I dunno, hang out."



I grew up being the girl people always pressed for information. My friends always wanted me to talk more, give more voice or opinion on things. My mother always wanted me to express my feelings more. My sister always used to try and get me to be more outgoing. I was always used to people wanting to be around me because of the need to hear more of what I had to say. It's not an arrogant thing. It's just what I was used to.



Which is why I was mildly caught off guard when Sarah merely shrugged. "Maybe."



I was getting the feeling she didn't care much for me. If I didn't know any better, I'd say she just thought I was another one of Matt's girlfriends, and was only nice because she wanted to know how "this one" played out.



Sometimes it sucks knowing you're good at reading people.









Chapter Three

chapter three: Sarah (How Does It Feel)









Frankly I thought she was just sucking up to me. I can't say I always see the light in people. I see what shows. And what I was seeing was Matt's new girlfriend, waking up before everyone else, and asking the pesky little sister of she wanted to hang out.



Ignoring my annoyance, I just shrugged and said "Maybe."



A look of shocked hurt flashed across her face, and she held that look momentarily before replacing it with one of disappointment. "Do you already have plans?" she pressed.



I actually had no plans at all. Jane, my closest friend, was out with her boyfriend whenever he wasn't committing a petty crime or cheating on her. I tried telling her he was bad news, but she never listened. Everyone else I knew judged me on the spot, thinking I was a spoiled rich kid, so I had no friends -- girls, anyway. I got occasionally asked out by guys, sufficiently. I just chose to decline most of them. I guess I was easy on the eyes, so if I was desperate I could get another boyfriend. But I didn't want one. Not again. Anyway, the point is, I don't have any plans at all this Sunday.



At least I hadn't had to suffer spending a day with any of his girlfriends. Personally, Chelsea was the only one I wouldn't have minded all too much. But she was always making out with Matt, or sleeping with someone else. She never bothered much with me. Didn't push herself to kiss up to Matt's little sister. But other than Isabelle, the rest had just greeted me in the school hallways or bought me things that I could afford myself. Just regular things. They didn't invite me to use my free Sunday as a time to get to know me.



I sighed, and said "No, I don't have plans."



The corner of her mouth twitched, curving up in a half-smile. "Come on, let's go shopping or out to eat. It'll be fun."



I clenched my jaw, and as calmly as possible, slowly stated "Look, you don't need to suck up to me to get Matt to like you. I know the drill. I tell him you're amazing. He believes it. He likes you. Then in a week or two from now the relationship is over, and it happens all over again."



I know it was harsh, but I just didn't want to go around pretending with her and act like we're actual friends.



I half-expected her to freak out, insult me, or cry. You know, something a lot of girls do when someone gets snappy with them. So I was slightly confounded when she smirked, and let out a light chuckle.



"Trust me, I'm not one of those girls. You can tell Matt what you want about me, what you think and if, in your opinion, I'm right for him. You know him better than I do. I just think you seem like a good person to be around. That's all." With another sweet laugh, she added, "So will you go?"



I didn't know what to say to that, or whether to believe her or not. I had noticed right from the beginning she was different from the rest, but not this different. Who wanted to actually befriends with the annoying little sister?



"Fine," I said, willing to give it a shot.



Isabelle grinned a glorious smile, the kind that makes her the center of attention. The type that makes everyone stop and turn their heads, or makes people want to know her or be her or just talk to her. It was the smile that made everyone go nuts. But not me. I didn't even see anything special in her smile at the time.



"Okay, get dressed. I'll get Matt to take us. I'm sure shopping is the last thing he wants to do, so we'll have the day to ourselves," she piped excitedly.



With a small wink, she ushered me towards the hall and up the stairs. Feeling relieved to be out of her clutches, I stalked over to my room and shut the door silently. I banged my head against the door lightly, scolding myself for agreeing to hanging out with Isabelle. Whatever, I can't do anything about it now without coming off as even more rude than I already had. What's the big deal? Only one day. It isn't like it would effect my entire life.



Even though a single minute had already changed me forever.



No, I screamed mentally, letting the single word repeat itself over and over again. I couldn't let my thoughts waver to him. Not when I was in a room with four walls and one window, two stories off the ground. I clutched at the neck of my shirt, feeling as if the collar were tightening its hold on my throat, like a snake winding around and impenetrably grasping my neck, cutting off my air supply.



It seemed like too long when I collapsed to the floor on my knees, gasping for air. I dug my nails into the carpet, squeezing my eyes shut as the despair and fear crawled over me overwhelmingly fast.



Please, I pleaded, just let me go, Rick.



Like flipping a switch, the pain melted away, slipping down the drain. My pulse slowed, my heart no longer racing. Feeling ebbed back into my limbs, and I could breathe normally again.



Dread washed over me as the realization I had been holding back for so long dawned on me.



It's getting worse.



***



I emerged into the kitchen, wearing freshly clean apparel; a loose white button-up and black jeans. Matt and Isabelle were on opposite sides of the island, propped up on their elbows, and in the midst of a passionate kiss until Isabelle broke away, noticing my presence.



"Oh, hey Sarah," she greeted, a smile coming to her flushed lips.



"Hey Slut."



"Is Matt coming too?" I asked, feeling my spirits lighten. At least I wouldn't be forced to engage in a conversation the entire time. Matt could keep her occupied.



"Where are you going?" he asked.



Isabelle gave him that melting smile again. "I invited Sarah for some shopping. You know, girl stuff." She shrugged.



"Mind if I come?"



"Oh, trust me, you don't want to. You're gonna be bored," Isabelle insisted.



It might just be my neurotic self, but I got the nagging feeling she was persuading Matt to not want to come, that she wanted it to be just us."



Kissing her lightly, Matt mumbled something only she could hear, but sounded like him saying he was never bored when he was with her or something. You know, one of those really cheesy but sweet things a guy like Matt says.



Isabelle giggled as she pushed him away, her hand on his chest, her eyes swiftly running over me. "Alright, we need a ride anyway."



Matt grinned over his triumph, and made his way around the island. Slipping his arm around Isabelle's waist, he led us out to the garage. Sulking slightly, I followed them out the front door. Matt had insisted on a non-glamorous car when our parents pressed him about getting a vehicle of his own (and that they would pay for it). So that is the reason, that instead of a Ferrari or BMW sitting in the driveway, he had a plain and simple semi-used Toyota pickup. I was about to climb up into the backseat, when Isabelle stopped me.



"Sit up front with us, I wanna talk," she said politely, smiling sweetly.



Suppressing an exasperated sigh, I followed her around to the other side of the automobile, and threw myself up.



It was a tad awkward sitting in the middle seat between Matt and Isabelle. At first they tried to find a way to hold hands with me sitting there, but when that failed they just retracted their arms as we sat in a stressful silence.



"So. . ." Isabelle began, twirling her fingers. She still wore the white fitted v-neck and jeans I had first seen her in, and her hair looked. . . well sexy. It was morning hair, but rugged looking and wild. "Are you seeing anyone, Sarah?"



Matt chuckled beside me, his eyes firmly glued to the road, as I said "Nope. Still far too innocent.



"Oh, nice."



I shrugged. "Yea, but not everyone sees it that way."



With a small laugh and a faraway look in her eyes, she said something about knowing exactly what I meant. Matt gave her a curious but concerned look at that, but she didn't meet his gaze and he gave up. I didn't have much of a right to ask any questions, so I remained silent for the rest of the drive.



Isabelle ended up directing Matt to the shopping mall in Burlington, and after what felt like hours of searching for parking, we finally found a place about a football field's length away from any entrance. The car died down as he took his key out, and I waited for one of them to exit the vehicle. Isabelle did first, so I followed her out the door. Not realizing I was after her, Isabelle shut the door behind her, and the edge of the car door slammed into my forehead. Immediate surprise and sharp pain attacked, and I saw stars glistening against the backs of my eyelids as I shut my eyes.



"Oh, shit," Isabelle cursed, throwing the door back open and standing on the step so she was right in front of me and at my height. Her nimble hand brushed against my forehead, light as a feather. I cringed away, expecting it to hurt when she touched me, but it felt nice; soothing. "Dammit, Sarah, I'm so sorry."



"What happened?" Matt asked, realizing we weren't following him. He had gone out the door swiftly as soon as Isabelle opened her side door



"I hit your sister in the head with the door. Sorry," she said distractedly to him, still all up in my space. Her face was inches away from mine as she furrowed her eyebrows, examining me. I could smell the aftermath of a perfume she had worn yesterday on her, and her breath was minty as she breathed against my face. Her fingers brushed back my hair so she could see me better, but I wasn't thinking about the pain. I was just thinking about how deep her golden brown eyes were as they scanned rapidly over me. My breath had caught in my throat, and worried for a moment that had happened earlier today was happening again, but only realized I had been breath taken by the illuminant portrait of those eyes. Pulled her hand away from my head, she cursed again.



"Shit, it's already turning purple."



"And swelling," Matt commented unhelpfully, leaning over Isabelle's shoulder.



"Oh shush," she scolded. Looking back at me, she said in a low voice, that made the back of my throat tickle, "I really am truly sorry."



Isabelle's hand held the left side of my face, which was unscathed, and lightly caressed my cheek.



I noticed I hadn't said anything, and probably looked like an idiot just sitting there, so I cleared my throat. "I-It's fine. Really, it hardly even hurts."



Disbelieving, Isabelle took my hand and helped me out. "Are you sure?" she asked fretfully.



I tried to give her the most believable smile I could muster up through the blinding pain in my head, and assured her I was indeed fine.



"Good," she said, leaning closer to me again as I kept my balance on the solid ground. "Because I wouldn't want you to suffer in anymore pain." And then she kissed me lightly on the cheek, her lips as soft as silk.



I frowned at her words. "Anymore"?



Did she know about Rick?









Chapter Four

chapter four: Isabelle (Chasing Cars)









I can't believe I did that. I mean it's one thing to hit her in the head, yea, but act like I know her and say I wouldn't want to cause her any more pain? Dammit, it's not even any of my business. I can see from the way their family acts that her parents and Matt are oblivious to the masked something Sarah was cowering in. But I saw it. It wasn't a bunch of little things that added up to it, but it was just everything she did was overflowing with the pain of the past she was drowning in. But just because I can read people like a book and I was doing that unintentionally with her, doesn't mean I can catch her on it and do something.



I don't have the right.



I refused plenty of Matt's offers for purchasing me items worth more than my house throughout the day. I bought my own things; a few tops, a pair of jeans and some heels.



At lunch, around one, I was fretting over Sarah nonstop about he enlarging purple bump on her head, but she laughed whenever I did, which is why I continued to. Her laugh was contagious and like a breath of fresh air. We didn't go anywhere special for the meal, just a small little smoothie place where we got -- of course -- smoothies. I guess I wouldn't even call it lunch.



My jaw almost dropped when Sarah had come out of the dressing rooms in a strapless, black cocktail dress that hugged her small frame tightly, and pressed her breasts together, making them seem an entire size bigger. I remember averting my gaze from her body, and instead keeping my attention on Matt saying something about "over his dead body" was she ever going to buy that dress, much less wear it in public. I snickered at their little quarrel, feeling a pang of longing for my own sister.



But I'd never again have the same kind of relationship with her, that Matt does with Sarah.



I swallowed my regrets, and nodded in agreement with what Matt said. Yes, she looked smoking hot in the dress, but I didn't want someone else having the same reaction as I did and acting upon it.



I mentally slapped myself for having these thoughts.



Sarah capitulated to the argument, rolling her eyes with a light smile, and retreated back into the changing room, disappearing behind the red curtain. Matt held my hand as he sat down in the chair next to me. I had tried on everything on this store I had liked, but it was Sarah's favorite, so she had found multiple items; all of which I thought were unattractive, but she made them look supermodel-worthy.



"You know you're beautiful, right?" he whispered into my ear, dragging me out of my thoughts of his sister.



I giggled, and then scolded myself for being like one of those bubbly girls.



"You know you're too sweet, right?" I replied, wiggling my eyebrows.



He kissed me intensely just then, digging his right hand into my hair. My lips tingles and butterflies flapped madly in my stomach. I got a deep rush from a kiss that lasted barely five seconds.



The rest of the day shopping went pretty well. Sarah spent a fortune on ten bags-worth of clothing, Matt won the battle of buying me a gift, but I was able to kick it down from diamond earrings to a Stirling Silver Butterfly pendant. Matt didn't get much for himself, other than a shirt or two Sarah insisted looked fabulous on him, which I agreed with.



But even putting aside all of the purchased item, the day still wasn't a waste. I found, to my surprise, Sarah warming up to me. She smiled at me often, talked to me first, asked for my opinion, and all that. She even hugged me. I can't remember why, because all I had been thinking was how close she was to me.



When it got around to being six in the afternoon after hours of shopping and anything else we found amusing, Matt let out an exhausted sigh. "Well, I think I'm gonna head home. You want a ride home?" He was looking at Sarah. I guess family comes first.



She looked for a moment as if she were going to agree, but I saw an idea flash through her eyes, and she declined. "Nah, I think I'm gonna go to the The Cheesecake Factory. I'm starved. Don't worry, I'll take a cab. I have money. And I have my pepper spray," she added at his concerned, worried look.



"Okay. Isabelle, are you going home, or do you want to stay over again?"



I bit my lower lip, pondering my options. On any other occasion, I'd only have the two Matt offered me. Well, the only rational reasons. But yet. . .



"Um, I think I'm gonna go with Sarah. If that's okay with you, of course," I said, looking away from Matt and at Sarah.



Matt was taken aback, and I knew immediately his past girlfriends had never attempted at bonding with his little sisters. I enjoyed being different than them. Apart from the choice in wardrobe-type difference, I mean.



I saw something flicker across Sarah's face, and whether it was excitement or disappointment, I couldn't tell. But if it was the second option, you would guess it because in a thrilled voice, she said "That'd be great. I hate eating alone anyway. I feel like one of those old lonely women that bring a book to dinner and is pitied by everyone."



I laughed as Matt shrugged, and leaned towards me. I was caught off guard a little by him, but just melted into the kiss anyway. His arms snaked around my back, one hand falling down slowly, until I felt it holding my ass.



What the hell?



"Um, Matt?" I mumbled into his mouth, squirming away. "Your hand is a little low."



Matt frowned, as if I were crazy (for not wanting him to feel me up in front of his sister), but then I felt his other hand, that had been resting somewhere in the middle, slide up towards my neck.



And then he yelled at Sarah to stop messing around, and it was then that I realized it had been her who held my ass, trying to get Matt yelled at. My cheeks burned beet red at the thought, and suddenly wished Matt wasn't leaving me. Could I trust myself around her?



Matt gave Sarah a one-armed hug before saying his goodbyes, kissing me on the cheek and heading off into the parking lot. I knew it'd be a while before he reached his car.



"You coming?"



I turned around to see Sarah standing a few meters away from me, heading in the direction of the restaurants.



I gulped, hating myself for how much my heart raced when I looked at her. But what I despised even more was it was the same rushing feeling I got when I looked at Matt.



***



"You come here often?" I asked her as the waitress left after taking our drink orders. The Cheesecake Factory was impressive with it's high, arched ceilings and intricately designed patterns. The waiters wore dressed very formally with clean aprons, unlike most restaurants where they had food stains, messy hair and pens behind their ear. I felt under-dressed in my casual attire.



Sarah sat across from me at our booth, and they must have paid a fortune for the lights, because somehow it made her look excruciatingly beautiful. Not that she wasn't before, but somehow, the way the light hit her at that perfect angle, it was nearly impossible to say anything.



Sarah nodded. "Yea, I do. It's my favorite restaurant. And, as their title briefly mentions, their cheesecake is to die for."



I smiled at her goofy, dream grin. She was adorable when she talked all adult-like, instead of saying 'like' every other word, as most girls her age I know do.



"I'm sure it is."



The waitress came back, handing me my coke, and Sarah her ice tea. The waitress was pretty, with her gleaming auburn hair and sharp bone structure. But a little too creepily thin for my taste, as if she were anorexic. I suddenly felt bad I was categorizing her based on this, as if trying to decide if she were my type or--



What the fuck are you doing? I broke myself off, and dug my nails into the palm of my hand until I looked away from the girl, who's name I recall was Emily.



"Are you two ready to order?" she asked in a monotone.



Sarah asked for a Filet Mignon, which I think was just fancy words for a tender steak. Distracted and flustered by my inappropriate thoughts, I asked for the first thing that I saw as I opened the menu, which was a French Onion soup.



"You alright?" Sarah asked me, after Emily scurried away.



I opened my mouth to reply, maybe say I was great or something, and change the subject by asking her something about her. Maybe something personal, or possibly casual. I was going to do that, when an all-too-familiar voice called my name accusingly.



Oh no. Oh please fucking no. Not now. Please.



Sarah frowned as she peered around me, looking for the person that shouted my name. Within a few seconds, a girl half a foot shorter than me when I was standing, flaring, short auburn hair and a slim build stopped at our table. She was wearing a waitress's uniform, identical to the one Emily bore.



"Sam," I said, breathless. I wasn't taken away or anything, or swept off my feet. Frankly it was the opposite because my blood rushing through my veins was now boiling with rage and worry.



"Why didn't you call me back? And who the fuck is she?" Sam exclaimed, gesturing a delicate hand to Sarah. For someone so small, she really had a lot of power in her.



"This is Sarah," I said, trying to keep my calm.



With a sarcastic glint to her, she cocks her head and says, much to my mortification, "Oh, and are you sleeping with her too?"



I felt as if she slapped me. She was way out of line, and exaggerating. "I never slept with you," I hissed under my breath, unable to believe this was happening. "Sam, can we please do this later? Not. Now."



I slowly realized we were catching people's attention. Her comment about me sleeping with Sarah definitely attracted many, and her voice was escalating. Plenty of the staff were eyeing Sam like she was insane, but also with a mixture of pity. Maybe Sam had told them about me. But if she kept this up, no doubt she'd be fired.



Leaning in so she was less than a foot away from my face, she practically yelled "I tried to do this with you in private, but you've practically been incognito. I haven't seen you for weeks."



Her voice was escalating ever so slowly, and my cheeks burned the more people turned to watch. I had to wrap this up, somehow.



"Sam, I'm sorry I hurt you, but we're done, okay? I've moved on, and. . . I'm not like you anymore. I tried to whisper so Sarah would hear me, but it was a failed attempt because I could see the surprise on her face as her eyes bulged.



"I miss you, Isabelle. Please," she pleaded.



Feeling like a selfish bitch, I took out my wallet, grabbed a fifty, and dropped it on the table. I slid out of the booth, walked around a distraught Sam, grabbed Sarah's hand, and got out of there as fast as I could.



I can't believe my ex-girlfriend just did that.







Five

chapter five: Sarah (Trouble Is A Friend)









I kept glancing over my shoulder to see if that girl -- Sam, I think? -- was following in pursuit. But she wasn't, and all I saw was dozens of heads turned towards Isabelle and I, who was dragging me out of the restaurant. Just before she tightened her deathly grip on my wrist and swept me out the door, I saw someone stalk up to the girl Sam and start shouting, making plenty of hand movements.



A wave of pity washed over me, but then we were out in the chilling, autumn air, our feet pounding hard on the pavement. I yelled Isabelle's name a few times, trying to get her to stop, but she had a good hold of me. Eventually, when we were both gasping for air and a good distance away from the restaurant, Isabelle stopped and doubled over on her knees, gulping in lungfuls of air.



"What the hell," I said between intakes of breath, "just happened?"



Her eyes told me an entire story with confusion as the main element. Tears had started to well up in her eyes, and now she wiped them away.



"I'm sorry you had to see that," she whispered after we both calmed down.



I walked away from her in the opposite direction, and collapsed onto a bench. It was dark now, and the glistening stars were sprinkled across the midnight-blue sky, smiling down on us. The moon was full, and cast rays of lights on us.



"Are you going to answer my question?"



Isabelle sat beside me, careful as to not be too close. She clasped her fingers together, staring hard at the ground. Just when I thought she was going to speak, she buried her face in her hands. I heard quiet sobbing escape through her fingers like sand.



"That was Sam," she began.



"I gathered that much," I snapped sarcastically, more harshly than intended. Why did she always bring out the worst side on me? Whenever I was with her I always found myself acting bitchy and rude. I hated her for having to deal with that.



"She's my. . ." her voice trailed off.



"Your what?"



She remained silent, looking away from me. Sparkling tears were trailing down her cheek, I could see, and as if sensing me noticing them, she flicked them away. Isabelle ran her fingers through her hair, and her body was quivering. I wanted to comfort her somehow, hug her maybe, just do something. But this was out of my department. I don't know what to do during these kind of situations. But even through the temptation to wrap my arms around her (or something), a nagging thought told me not to, that maybe she might take it the wrong way.



Her voice was stuffy from the crying as she said "She's my ex."



I struggled to understand what she was saying, what she was implying here. No, that's not possible. She's dating Matt, my brother. A male, sperm-producing, wonderful person. So how could she be. . . ?



"So. . . does this mean. . . you're like. . . you know. . ." I stammered, clenching my jaw.



Now she finally met my gaze, and she was freaking out. "No! I mean, not anymore. I used to be, but now I'm just. . . not." She shrugged helplessly. "It's simple. . . and complicated at the same time."



Now I ran my hand through my hair, trying to absorb what she was saying. How could you be in to girls, and then just. . . not? I couldn't imagine not feeling anything for boys romantically, because I have before. So how could those feelings just shut down?



I groped for the words to form the question originating in my head. "Does Matt know?"



She shook her head roughly, looking at me as if I suggested moving in with a rapist or kidnapper. "No, he doesn't, and he can't ever know. Please, Sarah, don't tell him. There's no point because like I said, that's not me anymore. He wouldn't understand and it'd just be a burden for him."



So she was dating Matt, my brother, and he didn't even know? Aren't you supposed to get to know each other when you're together, and everything about each other? Or maybe that's just marriage, and relationships are allowed to be built on nothing but lies.



Instead of voicing these thoughts, I continued with questions. "Does anyone know?"



Again, she shook her head. "Other than Sam, and now you, no."



"I don't. . . understand."



"I know, and I'm not asking you to. Just please, please, don't tell anyone. Especially Matt."



"You want me to lie to him?"



"Sarah, please, if you like me at all, don't tell him."



How could she ask me to not tell him? My brother, the one person I tell everything? There's not a single thing in my life he doesn't know about.



Great, first I lied to him, and now I am to myself, I thought bitterly, the one secret I had ever kept from him resurfacing and clouding my eyes. For a moment, I couldn't breathe again, as if the snake were back with winding around my neck, squashing my esophagus. I was afraid of falling to the ground in front of Isabelle as I struggled to breathe. My entire upper body ached with the effort, and I was thankful Isabelle wasn't seeing me lose myself -- again.



And then air flowed smoothly in and out, and I could breathe.



Isabelle gave me a funny look at me gasping, as if I had run that same distance again, but she said nothing.



"Okay." I sighed in defeat. "I won't tell him.



***



Can I just say I really hate Monday's? Actually, scratch that, I hate any day we have school. The teachers think I'm spoiled, and the kids think I'm stuck-up. And none of them have ever even said more than a few words to me. Whatever, I don't even need friends. I'd be fine without Jane at all. Mind you, she's wonderful and I love her to death, but I'm saying I can live without people. Cause some people suck and they're what hurt you the most.



Like how Rick hurt me.



I shut out my chaotic thoughts throughout the day. Classes were boring, as usual. Teachers blabbed about global warming, math equations, wars fought by people no one knows or needs to hundreds of years ago, and anything else uninteresting. I was yelled at for petty things like going to the bathroom without asking or being late for lunch.



I never understood why I was in a public school if we could afford a private one. At least there people wouldn't shove me around for having wealthy parents. But whatever, public school is decent and I don't need a private one. I'd be able to manage with this one.



Jane was late to school, as in she came sometime after lunch, and was hungover. Huge sunglasses rested on the bridge of her nose, her breathe stank of stale vodka and toothpaste. Her words were slightly slurred, but still decent enough for teachers to buy that she's an innocent little sober girl.



"Hey girl," she greeted me a little to enthusiastically.



Snickering, I replied, "Marcus take you to a party last night?"



"Mmhhmmm."



Sighing, I said "Whatever, let's get you cleaned up. You look like living shit."



Taking her by the hand, I led her away from my locker. People shoved us aside, mainly because of me, but I was used to it, and wove around them. We rounded a corner, and I dragged a stumbling Jane into the girls' bathroom. I checked under the stalls for feet, but fortunately, the restroom was deserted. I took her to the sinks, and turned on the faucets.



"What the hell is in your hair?" I asked. Some black grease was splattered and sunk in her hair, making her red hair seem auburn.



"Uuhhmm, I think it's motor oil?" she said in a questioning tone.



"Put your head back," I ordered, and she responded as I'd hoped. I ran my fingers through her hair, rinsing out as much of the grease as I could. Since there was nothing else to use, I squeezed some of the hand soap into my hair and massaged it into her long mane of fiery hair.



After an entire period, I finally managed to make her hair seem at least presentable for the time being. I led Jane to her second to last class, before jogging off to mine. Jane had math, which I knew would be killer for her in her state, but I was disappointed when I had Chemistry. Not only was it the most difficult class, but the teacher, Ms. Figgins, was a total bitch and made it her duty to make, not just mine, but every single students' life miserable.



Once it came to a close, however, I was glad it was my last period, and my favorite one at that: English. Basically it was so amazing because this was where the teacher didn't admonish me every other minute and give me an F for using too little big words.



I took my usual seat next to this sandy-haired guy, who I think was the point guard for the basketball team, but I wasn't sure. I don't even know his name.



Thankfully I was on time for this class.



I scribbled notes in my notebook, actually giving my full on attention. I was a bit grateful when it ended, because my hand was sore and my head ached. The bell rung out, ringing in my ears far after it ended as I gathered my things. I left to go for the buses (I told my mom I wasn't going to take a limo anymore after it got egged) and I was just walking out the doors when a hand lightly grabbed my wrist.



"Who the--" I began, ready to get hit in the face or something. I was caught off guard when I realized it was the sandy-haired boy from English. "Oh. . . uh hey."



He smiled confidently. "Hey Sarah. So listen, I was wondering if you wanted to go see a movie this Friday?"



I was taken aback by his forwardness, and instead of a yes or no answer, what tumbled out of my mouth was a dumbfounded voice saying "What's your name again?" I think I just said it to buy myself time, because I'm not a big fan of dating practical strangers.



Clearly embarrassed, he mumbled, "David."



"Right, I knew that. Um, well actually --" I was cut off once again, but not by him. Instead it was by a female, older voice that had somehow gotten very familiar over the past day or two.



"Sarah! Hey, I was looking for you," Isabelle said, out of breath as she jogged up to where I stood with David. "Who's this?"



"This is David," I introduced, gesturing to him. Then I turned to him and away from Isabelle, giving her a look asking if I could have minute. "Anyway, what I was saying is I'm flattered, but I'm not interested in seeing anyone right now. Sorry."



I was a bit glad I had denied him, because as soon as I finished speaking and the words dawned on him, a look of pure anger attacked his features. David snarled "Whatever, you're probably a dyke anyway. Later, lesbian."



Gaping in disbelief, I just stood there like a statue, while Isabelle cackled beside me. "Why are you laughing?"



Trying to suppress her sudden outburst, she joked "He got the wrong person. 'Cause you know. . . I'm like. . . yea and you're not." When I didn't laugh and continued to stare at her confusingly, she assured "Not that I still am, of course. Like I said last night, I'm not. Oh never mind."



But truthfully, when she was continuing to blab on in trying to fix her joke, I hadn't been thinking how weird she is or awkward it was that she was talking about it with me right then and there. I was mesmerized because she looked way too cute when she excessively talked. That's normal to think, right?









Six

chapter six: Isabelle (White Horse)









You have to admit that whole thing with that David guy was pretty hilarious. I mean, he gets shot down so he immediately assumes the girl's gay? Unless I'm mistaken, Sarah so isn't gay. Just because she hasn't had a boyfriend or her first kiss, doesn't mean she plays for the other team. Whatever, I have this feeling in my gut when someone is like that, and I didn't get that vibe from her. It surprised me how much this realization disappointed me.


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