Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Chapter 6-13: Can't Fight This Feeling

         “So, spring break is next week. Nichole and Seth invited us to their parents’ beach house for the week. Can we go?”
         “Who else is going? Will their parents be there?” Miles asked. Since he and Evangeline had gotten engaged and moved in together, he had been part of the decision making process on all things related to his children. Fortunately for them, he was more lenient than their mother which worked well in their favor.

          Hal paused, debating on whether or not he should lie. On one hand, he knew that no supervision vastly decreased his chances of his parents saying yes. On the other, it would just take a quick call to the Ralstons to discover that they were not in Brightpoint with their teens. He went with the safer choice, hoping it earned him brownie points. “No, it’ll just be Nichole and Seth, me, Han, and two other kids from school.”
         “You know how I feel about co-ed sleepovers. Plus, Flynn didn't take a trip for spring break.”
         “Flynn was busy studying for the MCAT! He wouldn't have wanted to go away, even if he had friends that had a cool beach house to go to. And I have a girl for a twin. If we do stuff together, it’s guaranteed to be co-ed mom.” The last words escaped sounding piteously close to a whine.
         “Miles and I will discuss it and let you know. Don’t argue.” Hal dropped back to his dinner and tried not to bring out the long list of reasons he should be allowed to go.

         After the twins headed to their respective bedrooms to start on homework, Evangeline and Miles sat down to talk the vacation over.
         “Do you think we should let them go?”
         “They’re good kids. Hal has been offered a couple different sports scholarships. And Hanley was accepted to veterinary school. She’ll be with him and you know she’s the level-headed one. She won’t let him do anything stupid.”
         “I just worry. They’re about to graduate and have their whole lives ahead of them. One week by themselves… a lot can happen in one week.”

          “So, when we get to Brightpoint, could you do me a favor and be nice to Turner?”
         “I’m nice to everyone.”
         “No, I mean like, really nice.”
         “Ew, no.”
         “C’mon. You haven’t dated anyone. He really likes you.”
         “You've dated at least half the school and you've really liked all of them. I don’t like him. Not like that.”
         “You don’t like anyone! It’s not normal. Garrett wanted to date you too and tons of girls would have given their right arm to go out with him.”
         “I’d like to keep my arms, thank you. Besides, he’s just a dumb jock that only cares about how far he can get with a girl. It’s a bonus if she’s smart and naive enough to do his homework for him. No thanks.”

         “Don’t worry man. I’m sure she’ll warm up to you,” Hal reassured Turner when they arrived at the beach house Saturday morning. 

         “C’mon everyone. Let’s go to the beach. I don’t want to waste one minute of this vacation inside.” Nichole rounded everyone up and they set out for one of the local beaches.

         “Oh my Watcher, Tyler is soooooo cute,” Kylie gushed. “I’m surprised he didn't go to prom.”
         “Didn't you hear? His mom got arrested! For disorderly conduct or something like that and then she fought with the police officers and one of them is in the hospital!”  Nichole was more than willing to share all of her knowledge on the matter.
         “No, it was public indecency and she just yelled at them.”
         “Whatever. He had to get her out of jail and then stayed with her since she was on house arrest.”
         “Such a waste. I’m sure if he had been there, he’d have won homecoming king instead of Robert.”
         Hanley sat listening in silence. Hal had told her that it was actually Tyler, who he was on the baseball team with, arrested for underage drinking and confined to his house except for classes. She didn't bother supplying the corrections and couldn't care less about the homecoming court either.  She had nothing to contribute to the conversation so when Hal shouted at her to join him in tossing the football, she gladly left the idle gossip of her peers.

         “Hal, come on! Don’t be a jerk,” she shouted when he threw the ball as hard and fast as he could.
         “Stop being a baby and catch it!”

         “Catch this,” she shouted tossing the ball back with as much ferocity as she could muster. Unfortunately, she was not athletically inclined, nor did she have the best throwing arm. She watched as it traveled straight towards an oblivious man on his cell phone. “Watch out!”

         Horrified, she couldn't look away as he turned right into the path of the ball. It slammed into his face and she heard the thump from across the beach. His rotation, combined with the unexpected contact knocked him off balance and he fell to his butt in the sand. Hanley took off running towards him, hoping that her weak arm at least meant that the man wouldn't be suffering from a broken nose.

         “Here, let me help you up,” she reached down to him to help pull him to his feet. He rubbed his face, ignoring her outstretched hand. She hoped he didn't have a concussion. “Sir, I’m so sorry, are you alright?”
         “Damn tourists. The mayor says they’re good for our economy but they just come and make life hell on the locals.” Her jaw dropped and she tried to sputter out a reply before noticing the smirk he couldn't quite conceal. He leaned forward, taking the hand that she had quite forgotten she had extended to him. “Don’t tell me, this is how you meet all the boys?”

         Realizing that he was teasing her, she laughed. “No, believe it or not, I probably couldn't do that again, even if I tried.” He settled himself into one of the beach chairs and motioned for her to join him.
         “You are a tourist though, I take it?”
         “Yeah. My friends and I are here on spring break. You live here full time?”
         “Not anymore. I grew up here though. The company my dad worked for shut down their office out here and transferred him to the main division back in Bridgeport.”
         “That must have been exciting. I've heard Bridgeport is a really interesting place.”
         “Not really. He took a lower paying job and the city has a higher cost of living. We tried renting out the house to tourists but it’s a seasonal vacation spot so my parents finally just decided to sell it. Sorry, I don’t mean to complain. I guess we were lucky that my dad didn't get laid off but going from the beautiful beach to the big city was a bit of a culture shock.”
         “Are you here, doing the final preparations for the sale then?”
         “Just came to say goodbye to the house and pack up the few things we have left there. What about you?” 
         “Nothing interesting really. I've lived in the same house since I was born. My parents are pretty great. I was actually a bridesmaid at my mom and dad’s wedding.” She noticed the puzzled look on his face. “He traveled a lot for work when we were growing up and I guess they had a hard time making the distance work. Once he retired they tried again and it worked out this time.”

         A loud crack reverberated followed by a streak of lighting that flashed across the sky. What had just been a beautiful blue day had, almost in the blink of an eye, gone to grey and cloudy with the sky opening into a pouring rain. “Han, come on! We've gotta get back to the house before one of us gets struck by lightning,” Halden shouted to her from the rest of the group. They were hurriedly packing their things in the beach bags they had brought and preparing for retreat.

         “Hannah then I take it,” the stranger asked.
         “Hanley, actually. I’m so sorry. I didn't even properly introduce myself!”
         “I’m Ben. It’s nice to meet you Hanley. It was nice chatting with you, even if you tried to break my face.” 

         The storm continued for two days. “This is just unacceptable,” Nichole raged inside the house. “This is supposed to be our spring break and we’re stuck inside.” Not that she had much complaining to do. The house had video games and board games and cable television. There was plenty to entertain themselves with, even if they couldn't lay out and work on their tans.

         “Han, what are you doing out here,” Hal found his sister on the back porch in the one of the wooden rocking chairs.
         “I like watching the rain.” 
         “Watcher, you’re so weird. I call winner,” he shouted, bursting back into the house to secure his position on the gaming console.

         “Where did you guys get a keg,” Hanley asked as she made her way back into the living area.
         “This guy that we know; his brother’s girlfriend’s older brother works at the liquor store and got it for a party but the party was canceled so he sold it to the guy who sold it to us for cheap,” Nichole explained. 
         Hanley raised her eyebrow. “Okay, so a friend.”
         “That’s what I said. Here, have one,” she passed a red cup towards Hanley.
         “No thanks.”
         “What you don’t drink now,” Kylie quipped from the corner.
         “When have I ever?”
         “Leave her alone Kylie. If she doesn't want any, she doesn't want any. It’s not like drinking makes you any more interesting.” He may be a jerk sometimes, but Hanley could always count on her brother to have her back. Kylie was constantly vying for attention and trying to prove her dominance over the group but most everyone just ignored her.

         The drinking continued well into the evening and the group of teens got louder and louder with every cup. The stereo was turned up to club levels and everyone was dancing and, generally, making a fool of themselves as drunken people tended to do. It was all well and good until Seth grabbed Hanley’s arm and pulled her in for a sloppy kiss. He barely landed the kiss on her mouth and she would have sworn she felt tongue on her chin. 

         “Seth, gross! That’s not cool, at all. You have a girlfriend back in St. Claire.” She glowered at him until he looked away. “I’m going to bed.”

         When she woke up the next morning, Nichole wasn't in their room with her and she could still hear the muted thump of the stereo from downstairs. She showered, still not seeing any sign of life upstairs and apprehensively went to take note of the damage. 
         “Morning sister,” Hal slurred from his slumped spot against the couch. Nichole had somehow passed out draped across the ottoman and chair and Seth had stripped down to his tighty-whiteys and was sleeping over what looked to be an attempt at the domino effect, with solo cups.
         “I am not helping you clean this up.” She quickly left, before anyone could get up and talk her into staying to help.

         She wandered down Main Street, peering into shops that weren't yet open before finally seeing a sign for a coffee shop.

         “Well, look who it is,” she looked up to see Ben standing in front of her. He opened the door for her and gestured for her to go in front of him. “Ladies first.”

         “May I buy you a cup of coffee,” she asked. “It’s the least I can do, after yesterday.”
         “You’re giving your arm a little too much credit,” he winked before turning to the barista. “One black coffee and whatever she’s having.” He led her to a small booth and they sat, waiting for their order to be called. When it was, he stood and retrieved it, bringing her coffee back and setting it in front of her with a smile.
         “You’re such a gentleman. I’m confused,” she joked.
         “Lemme guess. You’re from a city too.”
         “Guilty. St. Claire actually.”
         “Polite guys have it rough in big cities. No one appreciates our grand gestures.”
         “Anyone too silly to value good manners in a good looking guy isn't worth your time.”
         “So you think I’m good looking,” he beamed.
         “You can interpret it that way, if it’ll make you feel better.” He frowned at her before realizing that she was able to keep up with his humor. “Once you go back to the city, what will you be doing?”
         “I’m actually not going back.” Curious, she sat silent, waiting for him to continue. “I joined the military and I’m just waiting on orders. I’m on leave for a month between boot camp and the next phase of training.”
         “You don’t look like any soldier I've ever met.”
         A hearty laugh bubbled out of him. “No, I suppose not. It’s the hair, I know.” He ran his fingers through his sandy locks. “I haven’t quite grown used to the short look so I've been letting it grow while I've been here. Now that I've passed boot camp, it at least won’t have to be shaved anymore. Random thought; I know we just met but would you like to go to a movie with me?”
         “Actually, yes. My friends got completely trashed last night and I am not looking to go home until they've had enough time to clean up. Are there movies playing this early though?”
         “It’s kind of a boring town. There’s not much to do so they play older movies in the morning.”
         “Count me in then.”

         For the remainder of the trip, Hanley and Ben continued to see each other. It was easy for her to leave the house early in the morning, without anyone noticing her absence since the rest of the teens slept until noon. She and Ben would meet each morning for coffee and then he would show her around the island. Tuesday morning he pulled dusty bikes from his garage and they pedaled around the island while he pointed out places he’d frequented. On Thursday morning she met him at an open air market where they tried on ridiculous secondhand outfits. 

         They met up at the beach on her last night in town. He led her down the dock and lowered himself to the decking, beckoning her to join him. She sat and was a little surprised, but receptive, when he scooted close to her. 
         “This was probably my favorite place growing up. I loved sitting out and watching the stars. My dad taught me all the constellations he knew. I usually made up my own instead.”
         “You sound like a poor pupil. It sounds really nice though. My mom’s a chef so she usually works late nights. Plus, in St. Claire, it’s never quite as easy to see the stars.”
         “Another reason to not live in a city.”
         “Sounds like you’re developing a bit of a list there.”
         “Nah; already had the list. I’m just adding to it.” They sat content with each other’s company and the silence.

         “Hanley, I know this is going to sound strange. I've only known you for a week. But I’m falling in love with you.” Surprised, she glanced over at him, searching his face for his ‘tell’. 
         She cocked her head to the side, with her lips pursed and eyebrows furrowed. “You’re not kidding this time.” It was a statement, rather than a question, but he felt the need to clarify.
         “When we lived here, I was the poor kid who lived here full time, rather than a wealthy summer resident. In the city, I was just another victim of the economic downsizing. In the military, I’m just another grunt. Everyone I meet seems to put me into a neat little box. You’re the first person who has actually tried to get to know me for me. You’re smart and not afraid to be yourself. The fact that you give back as much teasing as you take is a definite plus.” He grinned, and then faltered. “I get if this is too fast. We can pretend I never said anything.”

         Not knowing what to say, she stood, unable to sit still any longer. Hands restless, she started picking at one of her cuticles. After a moment, Ben hoisted himself from the ground, brushing his pants off. “Goodnight Hanley,” he muttered, so low she could barely hear him over the crash of the waves on the beach.
         “Ben, wait,” she reached out, grasping ahold of his arm as he turned to go. As he stepped back towards her, his arms encircled her and, instinctively, she folded her arms around his neck. They stood there, inches apart, looking at each other, waiting for the spell to break. She felt butterflies in her stomach, a sensation she had never experienced before and she was sure he could hear her heart beating above the sounds of the ocean. As he bit his lip she realized that he was as nervous as she was, maybe even more since he had been the one to make the declaration. 

         “I think I’d like it if you kissed me now,” she stammered, barely audible. She felt his eyes burn into hers as though he was searching whether the kiss was what she truly wanted or not. After what felt like an eternity, she felt his lips lightly brush against hers. She was hesitant since this was her first real kiss. What if she did it wrong? She pushed her doubts from her mind and leaned into him, letting the moment carry her away. When they finally pulled back, she found herself breathless. And grinning like a kid on Christmas.

         Her smile must have been contagious because Ben couldn't keep the grin off of his face either. “Will I see you tomorrow?”
         “Of course. I’ll meet you by the ferry. It doesn't leave until eight tomorrow night so if you meet me at seven, we should have a little time before I have to go.”
         “I’ll see you then. Goodnight,” he leaned forward, brushing his lips to hers once again. 

         She was up all night that night. Packing done, everyone was asleep and hoping to get one more day of fun in the sun before heading back to the city for the last final weeks before graduation. Except Hanley who could only toss and turn, thinking of her night with Ben.

         She met him the next day in the prearranged spot. “This past week was fun.” Even though she’d thought about it all night, she couldn't stop from grimacing as she said the words, realizing that it made the entire time they had spent together sound trite.
         “It was more than fun,” Ben was unafraid of calling her on her choice of phrase.
         “Long distance didn't work for my parents and technically they lived in the same city! I’m going back to St. Claire, you’ll be Watcher knows where you’ll get orders and busy with work besides.”

         “Hanley, please, don’t give up on us before we've really give this a chance. We’re not your parents. We won’t know if this will work until we try.”
         A huge sigh escaped her. She hadn't even realized it but, subconsciously, she had wanted to give him an out in case it had just been the whirlwind of emotions talking the night before. 

         “We can make it work. I know it’s crazy but this feels right.” He threaded his fingers through her hair and gazed into her eyes. “I’m willing to do what it takes to be with you.”
         “Me too.” She knew it was insane. She knew no one would understand. None of that mattered though and the joy she felt when he held her couldn't compare to anything she had ever experienced before.

         “Who’s that?” Darla leaned over her shoulder in class, trying to read the text from Ben on her phone. 
         “Oh, um, my mom,” she mumbled, hoping her friend wouldn't see through the bad lie. If Darla suspected anything, she didn't bother mentioning it.

         The same couldn't be said for Evangeline though. “Honey, it’s past eleven. Are you on the phone,” she asked, pushing open the bedroom door.
         “No, mom. Privacy please?”
         “I could have sworn I heard a man’s voice.”
         “It’s a video I have to watch for school. Can I finish?”
         “Okay. Just not much longer. It’s a school night.”
         “That was close,” Hanley said, turning down the speaker on her web chat.
         “Why don’t you just tell them,” Ben asked.
         “I will. I don’t know how though. I’m afraid they’re going to hate that we met on vacation, automatically suspect the worst and, the longer I keep this a secret, the worse I fear it will be when I do tell them.”

         “I think Hanley has a boyfriend,” Evangeline confided in her husband after retreating back to the bedroom. “I clearly heard her talking to someone but she flat out lied to my face. What if she met one of those internet perverts?”
         “Evey, she’s almost an adult. We have to trust her.”
         “You know, it’s a lucky thing I was the one who stayed with them while you were gone. If our roles were reversed, they’d get away with murder!” 

         “Flynn! You aren’t busy with your intern program?”
         “Too busy to come to my little sister’s birthday party? Never!”
         “Don’t forget the other one. He’ll never let you live it down.”

         After a day of barbecue and horseshoes and outdoor fun, Hanley and Hal finally blew out their birthday candles. 

         The next day, the family headed down to city hall to attend the high school graduation ceremony. “We just want you to know that we are so proud of the both of you,” Evangeline, never one for getting too emotional, found herself choking over her words. 
         Her speech was interrupted by the low tinkling of Hanley’s cell phone. “I’m sorry mom, I need to get this.” She stepped away from the group, trying to hide the growing smile from seeing Ben’s name on her caller ID.

         “Thank you. Did you get your orders yet?”
         “Yep, they’re sending me to a special forces unit in Moonlight Falls.”
         “That’s on the other side of the nation!” She forced herself to take a deep breath. They’d known this could happen. She pushed herself to sound chipper. “I've heard it’s beautiful there.”
         “It can’t be as beautiful as what I’m looking at right now.” His words, tinny through her phone speaker mingled with the sound of deep, husky sound of his voice behind her.

         After the precious seconds it took her mind to comprehend what her eyes were seeing, Hanley flung herself into his arms. “Ben, you’re here! I can’t believe it!” She could feel her family’s eyes on her hair but, at that moment, the loudspeaker crackled to life.

         “The ceremony will begin in five minutes. Everyone, please take your seats. Graduates, you should be lined up, in your robes, behind the stage.” Hal and Hanley rushed through the doors, shrugging into their robes and attempting to get their caps fixed into place while everyone else filed in and found seats in the auditorium. 

         “Mom, Dad, this is Ben.” Hanley introduced her boyfriend to her family after she had collected her diploma and they had joined back up behind the building.
         “Pleasure to meet you,” Miles shook Ben’s hand first.
         “It’s a pleasure to meet both of you. I've heard a lot about you.”
         “Strange. Before today, we didn't even know you existed.” Miles nudged his wife but couldn't stop her suspicious once over of the man standing before them.

         Ben turned to Hanley and took her hands. “It’s been a crazy last couple of months but one thing I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that I love you with all of my heart.” He paused, dropping to one knee in front of Hanley, and her entire family. “Please, say you’ll marry me and make me the happiest man in the world.”

         Oblivious to her brother’s surprise and mother’s horror, Hanley’s face split into a grin so wide it hurt her cheeks. “I suppose it’s the least I could do, after almost breaking your face.”
         “I still think you’re giving your arm a bit too much credit” he replied, slipping the ring onto her finger.
         “Actually, I think you’re not giving it enough. Without my arm, we wouldn't be standing here right now.”

Chapter 6.12                                                                                                                                                     Chapter 7.1

Generation 7 is officially starting! I'm still getting the town set-up but a lot of it is taken care of so I don't suspect (and highly hope) it doesn't take too incredibly long before I get to start actually playing the new save. They're being Portered over to a brand new set of user files and though all the relatives are going, really only Hanley and Ben will be shown.

Special thank you to Buckley who helped make Ben's uniform possible. What would I do without you???