I stared out the window and saw a bird in a nest. It threw a little baby bird out of the window – and I assumed the bigger bird wanted the smaller bird to fly. The little bird started flying for a bit, but then it fell into the bushes below.
Sixth unlucky bird.
It was pouring, and we had only roamed around the old city for two hours after our encounter with Raven. Right now, as I looked through my phone, I didn’t know what to do.
I checked the time. 3:13 PM.
A message from iMessages. I clicked on the notification and stared at the message hard.
Maryam: Ella is lying. Call me when u get the time. Luv ya. :)
I raised an eyebrow and grunted. Shutting off my phone, I leaned back into the car’s passenger seat. No one was driving yet because everyone was trying to figure out how to get home. Some of us were hungry and some of us were tired. Some of us wanted to go to the bathroom. Finally, it was decided that we would go to Wendy’s to dry off and eat some food.
Raven was with us.
Ave and I urged the others to be more open minded and to put themselves in her shoes. They considered it, and we brought her along begrudgingly. I kept stealing glances at the young woman, but my mind was elsewhere.
Who was my father? Was he really the father of Raven? Were Brittany – Raven’s mom – and Brad – my father – really husband and wife? Or was this all fake? Raven and Grace are both twins, meaning I would have older twin stepsisters. And I would have a stepbrother too. Carter. Carter would then be Ave’s step cousin.
When I told Ave of this thought – of them being step cousins – he was delighted.
I squirmed in my seat. Ave looked at me funny and I flashed him a smile, telling him it’s okay. He cautiously turned away and I exhaled. Taking out my phone again from my purse, I stared at the message.
Me: Can we talk now? Over text?
Thinking I wouldn’t get a reply anytime soon, I started putting my phone back, but I got a reply.
Me: Tell me now
Haha, very funny, Maryam. You don't know what I'm talking about. I rolled my eyes at the thought.
Me: Its now or never. Tell me now
Maryam: Okay okay
Maryam: When Ella said that Maddie ACCEPTED me and her in her group, that was a lie.
I started to get impatient, and was about to shove away my phone, when I got a reply.
Maryam: Maddie’s been bullying me. And so has Ella. They’re both evil, Jay. Maddie’s trying to do harmful things to Ella by making her do - idk, stuff like make up (something she hates, or should i say HATED?? you know Ella hates makeup). And can you believe that Ella lost last nights cross country competition? i was there watching the entire thing, and it looked as if she was doing everything on purpose. It was horrifying
Me: I am going to beat the hell out of that idiot! Whats her problem?
Maryam: Don’t. She’ll get her guy friends to beat us into pulp
Me: Who cares!? I'll kill her. And Ella? How could she?
Maryam: I know…
Maryam: She’s doing bad at school too. And she’s bunking classes; we're literally only in grade 8
Me: This is insanity. I’ll call you later tonight. Our flight back is tomorrow afternoon
Without waiting for a reply, I closed the ringer, shut my Samsung, and buried it deep within my purse. Which wasn’t possible, since I always carry around small around-the-shoulder purses.
Much to my surprise, I noticed Ave looking at me, concerned. Thank goodness we – including Tim – were the only ones at the very back of the minivan. If we were in the middle seats, someone would’ve poked their head towards us, asking what happened. I lowered my head and covered my face with my beanie, and like the usual sleepyhead I am, I dozed off.
“Get. Up. Get. Up. Get. Up.” Izzy growled into my ear over and over again. Bolting up right, I drowsily looked around the car.
“Izzy.” I groaned. Everyone was inside the house by now, and it was only me and Izzy in the car. I rubbed away the sleepiness from my eyes and goggled at my sometimes-mature-and-sometimes-immature younger cousin.
“I’ve been trying to wake you up for the past year.” she said dramatically. I shoved her out of the way and jumped out of the car. The rain had cooled down to a drizzle. “Hold up!”
“Sure thing,” I grinned, skidding to a sudden halt, making Izzy – who was running on my heels – bump into me.
She whined and shoved me out of the way. I laughed, striding into the house. “Cool down, you guys!” Ave called out from the top of the stairs. He was looking down. “You don’t want to break your heads, do you? The floor’s slippery with all the wet shoes that ran in here.”
Izzy and I grinned up at him. “The way you’re standing up there seems like you’re going to fall off any minute.” Izzy said, sassily. Turning red in the face, Ave walked away. We grinned at each other and crossed the hall to enter our room. We changed into comfortable clothes. Me in an off the shoulder pastel pink sweater paired with cargo pants and Izzy in a t-shirt and faded ripped jeans.
Ave came into the room and flopped on the bed. I sat down next to him. “Where’s Ra–”
“I knew you’d ask. She's down in the living chatting with Grams." he said, smiling.
"You want to see her, don't you?" he asked, crossing his arms, and smirking at me.
I shrugged, "I dunno, really." I paused. "I have a step-sister."
Ave grinned. "And I a step-cousin, also known as my best friend."
We laughed, and Izzy re-entered the room, carrying a tray with three milkshakes. My stomach growled.
"There you are, Ave!" she beamed, handing him a cup. He gratefully accepted, and started chugging it down. Izzy handed me mine, and I sipped it carefully. Izzy flopped onto the bed, and gleefully drank hers.
"Today was tiring." Izzy mumbled, staring out her window. She had suddenly gone pale. "I've honestly never seen Tim that way. Only when he's super upset."
"Yeah. Kinda crazy, considering who he is." Ave replied.
I stayed silent, and took a gulp of the milkshake.
"Anyway." Ave said, took a sip, and continued. "Do you think Carter knew all this?"
I shook my head.
"Oh. And what about Nathaniel? Or... whatever the poor kids' name was." he said quietly.
I felt a pang in my chest. Who would kill their child? Who would be so cruel as to kill their baby boy? Shuddering, I took the last sip of my milkshake and set it on Izzy's side table, where the tray lay.
"Are you gonna go see Raven or what?" Izzy said suddenly, after she had finished all of her drink, and had put her glass on the tray as well.
"I dunno." I muttered.
I got up and left the room. The other two knew exactly what I was going to do, so they kept quiet. I was grateful for their non-verbal support, even though I felt only irritance towards them. Once I had reached the end of the stairs, I froze. Oh my gosh, what am I doing?
I didn't get to finish the rest of my thought because at that very moment, Raven had gotten out of the living room, and we were facing each other. My throat became dry, and I felt very self-conscious all of a sudden. I expected her to walk away, but she smiled kindly at me. That was worse that a slap in the face to me. Gulping, I slipped her a smile as well.
"Hey." she said awkwardly. "Um, d'you wanna talk?"
"Um, y-yeah, sure, I guess." I spluttered and followed her back into the room. What is wrong with me? I should be comfortable with her. But the way she was acting made me feel as if I had never met her. I sat down on the couch the way I had the first time I came here – cautiously, as if I might ruin the white leather couch.
"I'm sorry." Raven said quietly.
I looked up so suddenly, I thought I cracked a joint. "Y-yeah."
"I'm really sorry, Julia."
"Mhm." I hummed, afraid to speak anymore.
"Julia, please look at me." – I did so reluctantly – "I mean what I'm saying. Mother has forced me to do all this nonsense just so she could get "revenge"." – she made quotation marks in the air, rolling her eyes – "She hates your mother's guts because she "stole"" – again the quotation marks – "Daddy. Or, Brad. But I know the truth. Your mother and our father fell in love with each other first. Daddy's family weren't satisfied with Anthea, so they forced him to marry Mother. Then, when me, Grace, and Carter were born, they divorced. Some financial stuff, and they didn't really love each other anyway." she took a deep breath.
"And then, Brad – I mean, Dad? – married Mum." I finished. I thought that this was the end of the story, but she continued.
"You had maids. And one of them was double agent sort of person. And..." she gulped.
"Mother forced her to burn your mansion. And..." she let out a sob, and I started. "S-sorry. I feel so guilty about everything." she explained, then, as I felt a pang in my chest, I walked over to her, and sat, looking at Raven, genuinely smiling. She broke into more sobs, and dropped her head onto my shoulder, her chest heaving. "And then... Mum got married again and gave birth to Nathaniel. She got drunk one day, and she killed him. Our baby brother. She killed him while being drunk. And she never regretted it even when she got out of her state."
Unsurely, I wrapped my hands around her, and held her in an embrace.
I knew this was all the truth.
"I'm so sorry for being so wicked. You have no idea how much it would mean to me if you had forgiven me." she whispered.
"I forgive you." I said softly.
And I meant it. Truly.