A/N: Hello again! I’m back with a timely update. This is the fourth chapter for Generation 4 and the second one that I’ve written since my long hiatus, so make sure you’re caught up on the previous chapters for this generation before delving into this one. Besides that, I hope you enjoy! ^_^
I was grounded for my little stunt the other night, but it wasn’t all that bad honestly. My parents’ reasoning had basically been, since I had left the house without permission, I now was not allowed to leave the house, except to go to school. This punishment was apparently to last until we left for France, which was literally the day after the last day of school.
That left only school to talk to my friends, or rather, to spend time with Maddie. We spent our last week of school as one of those couples, constantly attached at the hip, while Chris and Candice hung out on their own, since Mitch was home-schooled anyway. Sometimes I’d glance their way at lunch, my eyes lingering longer than necessary on Candice, who seemed just the way she usually was despite our strange conversation the other night.
I watched as she delivered some kind of rant to Chris, who listened in silence, occasionally nodding his head, and I wondered not for the last time what she had been about to say to me that night.
“James, baby, are you okay?” I suddenly heard Maddie ask from beside me, her eyes filled with concern.
“Yeah….yeah, I’m fine,” I said, and then managed to pull my attention away from them and back to Maddie, but honestly, I wondered if I really was.
“Come on, James! Grab your suitcase, we’ve got to get going!”
The day we left for France was a chaotic one. Amelia was complaining because she couldn’t find her sandals, Kira was freaking out that we’d miss the flight, Mom was running all over the house trying to look for said sandals, and Dad was trying to calm our screaming and hissing cats as he tried to get them into crates to be transported to a nearby Pet Hotel.
Grandpa, meanwhile, tried to keep everyone calm, reassuring us that we had plenty of time, but his comforting words seemed to have little effect on the frantic household.
Eventually though, Mom found Amelia’s sandals and Dad, scratched and pissed, finally gave up and called our Aunt Catherine to come check on, and care for the cats once a day while we were gone.
In all of this chaos, I’d lain on the couch like a bum, texting Maddie how much I’d miss her and receiving heart and kiss emoticons in return.
“COME ON, JAMES. WE’RE LEAVING!” Kira finally shouted, still looking positively insane.
“I’ve been ready, jeez,” I mumbled, and then rolled off of the couch and out the door. Why couldn’t Kira have just decided to go to a local college? It would have been a lot easier on all of us.
When we arrived in France, Mom immediately began to run around excitedly, picking up the keys to the new vacation home we’d purchased in anticipation of Kira being here long-term and already preparing to go explore the darkest tombs of the French countryside. My dad looked anxious about the latter, but not enough to actually stop her. Stopping her would have been more dangerous than the tombs themselves.
I actually couldn’t even imagine her in a tomb, until minutes later when she came out of her room decked out in all her high-tech gear, her bag full of tomb raiding necessities like dried foods, a pick-axe, rope, and even something called a “shower-in-a-can,” which I looked over dubiously before putting it back in her bag.
As I watched her go over the itinerary with Kira, figuring out exactly when she needed to be present and so on, I remembered that this was actually Mom’s thing. Before all of us were born, Mom was a world renowned explorer. Even now, years later, people I had never seen before in my life kept coming up to greet her like they were old best friends, kissing and hugging and practically squealing upon seeing each other again.
I wondered if she ever missed it once she started having kids, but mostly I wondered why I had never asked her about her adventures before. There was a good story there, and I was dying to hear it.
Despite my lack of original enthusiasm, the trip was actually fine. Mom got to raid some tombs, collecting some pretty neat treasures in the process, and we got to do a lot of sightseeing together, exploring the countryside and the village markets for delicious new foods and souvenirs.
I wasn’t exactly sure where she was going to put all these new treasures and souvenirs, considering she already had two floors devoted to such trinkets, but I guessed she’d worry about that when we returned.
The whole family even got to go to the nearby Nectary, where we sampled many varieties of nectar. It was pretty great actually, though drinking too many of them kind of left you feeling queasy.
While there, we also got to try and make our own, homemade nectar.
Mom was pretty good at it, having had some prior experience with the process, while I—well, I can safely say I liked drinking nectar a helluva lot more than making it.
We had such an enjoyable time together as a family that it was easy to forget that we’d be going home sans one member, but every now and then the thought would creep back up on me, until the end of our vacation rolled around–and the beginning of Kira’s journey at Université de Champs Les Sims.
On that fateful day, I’d made a mental note to myself to be as supportive of Kira as possible, but when we arrived at her amazing new university and I got to see just how excited she was about attending, I found that I hadn’t needed the personal reminder after all. Not only was I happy for her, but I was also so impressed with the school that I started thinking about how I wanted to go there too!
“Be weary of strangers and be sure to check in with us at least once a week,” Mom said tearfully on our last day together. She pulled Kira in for a big hug goodbye, looking reluctant to ever let her go.
“We wouldn’t mind if it were once a day though either,” Dad said with a smile, although it was clear from his tone that he was only half kidding.
“She’ll be fine,” Grandpa reassured in his quiet way.
“I really will be. And I’ll make sure to check in as much as I can…though I don’t know about once a day!” Kira remarked with a laugh.
“Don’t forget me! Don’t forget me!” Amelia cried out, running up to Kira and reaching up for a hug too.
“I’d never forget you, kiddo,” Kira said, bending down to give our little sister a squeeze. I took a deep breath then, bracing myself as I realized that Kira had said her goodbyes to everyone but me now.
As such, once Amelia hurried away to hide the fact that she was crying, Kira turned to me, giving me a tentative smile.
“So…do I get a goodbye too?” she asked, watching me carefully for my reaction.
I rolled my eyes a bit and then opened my arms for a hug too. “Of course you do, stupid,” I said with a smile.
Kira’s face lit up in a huge grin as she pulled me into the kind of bone-crushing hug that only your older sister could give you.
“Oh god…suffocating….death….imminent,” I managed to choke out, but Kira just laughed and held onto me for a moment longer.
As Kira pulled away though, a serious look came over her face. “Look….James—”
“I’m fine. It’s fine. Seriously. I’m glad you’re happy,” I reassured her quickly, feeling guilty and childish about how I’d acted before.
“Okay…but, well….you know you can call me anytime, right? For anything, no matter how stupid you think it might be!”
“Yeah, I know,” I admitted, and then gave my sister an extra hug to go.
I was going to miss her…a lot, honestly, but at least she was happy and had a bright future ahead of her, which was probably more important than guiding her awkward little brother through life anyway.
When we landed back in Neverglade, my phone practically blew up with texts. Candice, Mitch, and Chris had all sent me “Welcome back!” texts, having known around what time we’d be arriving, and Maddie—well, Maddie sent me a crap ton of texts, each more disconcerting than the last.
-James? Have you landed?
-Hey, I have to talk to you.
-We need to talk.
-Hello? I can’t take this on my own. Please respond. I can’t do this.
-God I’m freaking out here please text me when you’re home!
-I hope you’re not ignoring me.
-I’m so sorry. I just can’t. I can’t deal with this on my own any longer.
-I can’t wait any longer, I need to talk to you, NOW.
-James, I’m pregnant!!
-AHHHHHHHHHH PLEASE RESPOND!
I could feel the color draining from my face, a cold sinking feeling spreading slowly throughout my body like a time-released venom. My mouth went dry, and my body suddenly felt like it was covered in a frigid sheet of sweat. I could feel my heart pounding. What?
I tried to type out a response multiple times, but I just couldn’t get my hands to move. It wasn’t until Maddie started sending me a text a second, frantic “James? James! Jamessss! JAMES,” that I finally tightened the grip on my phone, hoping the pressure would reawaken my senses.
“Very funny, Maddie,” I typed out shakily, hitting send. I looked out the car window as I waited for her response, my leg bouncing up and down with anticipation and anxiety. The trees passed by, another and another and another, the seconds dragging as the cold venom in my veins attempted to paralyze me. My leg bounced even more frantically, as if trying to fight it off. Surely, surely, she was just joking to get my attention?
“James, do you have to pee?” Amelia suddenly asked from beside me, raising an eyebrow at my borderline-spastic limbs.
“Yeah,” I breathed out quickly before turning my attention back out the window. Tree. Tree. Tree. Tree. Second after second after second. My phone vibrated in my hand and I looked up at the car ceiling, closing my eyes. Finally, I convinced myself that she was joking and took a deep breath before glancing down at the tiny words gleaming brightly on my screen.
“I’m fucking serious, James! I don’t know what to do! This wasn’t supposed to happen. I’m so scared! I want to die, I want to die, I want to DIE,” I read, the words doing nothing to quell my fears. My stomach lurched, and I felt as if I were going to be sick. Physically, all over the car, sick. I cracked open my window, taking in a shuddering breath, the warm air doing little to soothe me.
“James, close the window, the air conditioning is on,” my mom reminded me, glancing back at me with a puzzled look on her face.
“Sorry,” I mumbled, putting the window back up and then quickly looking away from her, feeling a sort of panic try to claw its way out of my throat. What would she think? What would Dad think? I pressed my lips together tightly, suppressing a moan of despair as I refocused my attention to my phone.
“Stop. Just stop. I’m coming over there as soon as I can,” I typed out, hitting send hastily.
“I can’t do this, James. I feel like dying. I…I’m sorry.”
“I can’t do this.”
“STOP, MADDIE!” I typed in giant capital letters, about ready to wrench open the car door, launch myself out, and race toward Maddie’s house. Luckily, we were pulling into our driveway at that point. As soon as my parents got out of the car I asked for the keys, a desperate look on my face.
“What’s so important that you need to go out right now?” my dad asked, raising an eyebrow at me. “We just got home. Look, we’ll give you the keys tomorrow and you can be out all day, okay?
“No, please!” I blurted out immediately, the thought of having to wait the entire night sending me into an official panic. “Please, Dad. If…if you don’t give me the keys I’m just going to sneak out anyway,” I said in a rush, knowing full well that the tactic I was using could blow up in my face.
“You will NOT,” Mom scolded, turning her irritated glance at me. “And if you do, I can guarantee you’ll be dragged back here by me personally!” I turned my gaze toward her, my heart and stomach feeling as if they were sinking within me. I didn’t even have a response. All I could think was of Maddie, and how scared she was right now, and the news she had told me, and fuck my life it was falling apart! My eyes burned from held back tears, but just at that moment I felt cool metal being placed in my hand. I looked up, confused, and saw my Dad handing me the keys, both of my parents now looking at me expectantly. I realized they must have said something, but I missed it.
“What?” I asked stupidly, completely out of it in that moment.
“Are you okay, James?” my mom asked then, looking as if she regretted her decision to let me go after all. Or at least I assumed she had decided to let me go, seeing as how there were car keys in my hand. I seriously couldn’t think straight at all.
“I could drive you, if you want,” Dad offered then, clearly also doubting my capacity to drive.
“No—no!” I blurted out, startled. “I’m…I’m fine,” I managed to say. I licked my lips, although my mouth was so dry that this action did nothing. “Just…Maddie. I missed her,” I lied. I avoided their gaze then and immediately hurried into the garage before they could change their minds. Getting into the car, I shut the door, flipped the switch for the garage door to open, and shoved the keys into the ignition.
“Be back by midnight,” I heard my dad call out as I backed out of the driveway. I nodded carefully, trying not to look at my parents, but I caught a glimpse anyway. They looked confused…and a little scared. But nothing compared to how scared I feel right now.
This couldn’t be happening, this just couldn’t be happening! This was so cliché…this was something that happened in a cheap novel, or a television show, or hell, a Lifetime movie. Not actual life…and if it did happen, well, not to me. And yes I realized how stupid that sounded, but I felt like it was true. This shit happened to OTHER people. Not to me. Not to me. Son of a bitch, not to me! Hot tears burned my eyes again and I blinked rapidly, trying to clear my vision and focus on driving. I really shouldn’t have been on the road, but I needed to be. I needed to be there for Maddie. I needed to figure this shit out!
I arrived at Maddie’s house with little to no memory of the drive, knocking on the door with knuckles that yearned to break the door down. Luckily, I didn’t have to though, because Maddie suddenly appeared before me, her hair a matted mess, in nothing but a nightgown and tears streaked down her face. Before I could say a word she threw herself onto me, hugging me so tightly that I had difficulties breathing, but I didn’t care. Maddie was here, in my arms, and I really had missed her, and her texts had scared me so goddamn much.
I don’t know how much time passed with us just clinging to each other, but when we finally pulled apart Maddie’s shoulder was soaked, and I realized that I must have been crying too. After all, my life was falling apart.
“What…what happened?” I finally managed hoarsely. Maddie pressed her lips together, fresh tears falling down her cheeks.
“What should we do?” Maddie mumbled as if she hadn’t heard me. She gazed at me through puffy eyes that seemed to believe that I was her savior.
I took a deep breath, trying to steady my voice before I spoke, but I didn’t have an answer for her. I wasn’t her savior. I was just a 16 year old boy who had no idea what to say or do in such a messed up situation. “I…I don’t know,” I finally admitted, unable to watch the spark of hope in Maddie’s eyes flicker out.
“What do you mean you don’t know?” Maddie asked in an increasingly panicked tone, side-stepping back into my line of sight again. “We’re expecting a BABY, James! What should we do!?” Maddie asked again, her voice growing hysterical. She grabbed onto the front of my shirt, as if trying to tether herself to this world, and not the fucked up world of hysteria that was trying to take her.
“Well, what do you think we should do!?” I cried out before remembering that I should be trying to stay calm. I took a breath and turned away from her as I tried to suppress the hysteria that was also growing within me.
“I think I’m going to get an abortion,” she stated, stepping in front of me again and giving me a crazed look. “We can’t do this.”
I looked down at her fingers entangling themselves in my shirt once more and my heart twisted. I could feel my mouth get even drier, but I found myself nodding slowly.
“Okay,” I whispered. “We…we could do that. That’s- that’s probably the smartest thing to do.”
“But then again, maybe we should keep it. It’s…it’s our baby,” she said now, her grip on me tightening.
“True…yeah. We could also do that.”
“Or give it up for adoption?”
“Well, which do you want, James?” Maddie suddenly cut at me, letting go of my shirt as anger and frustration replaced her hysteria.
“I don’t know,” I mumbled, looking down at the ground, again unable to hold her gaze. “I mean…it’s your body, right?”
“But it’s your baby.”
I stared up at Maddie for a moment, my mouth slightly open. The words sounded so foreign to me, so misplaced—as if they had just been spoken to the wrong person. Surely those words weren’t directed toward me. Surely those words didn’t even pertain to me. “And yours,” I managed to say, clearing my throat.
“I’m leaning toward the abortion.”
“But maybe we SHOULD keep it…..”
“GOD JAMES, YOU ARE NO HELP WHATSOEVER!” Maddie suddenly exploded on me, making me jump and flinch as her hand came toward my face. It stopped though, not actually striking me, just a gesture of anger and frustration. A part of me though, wished that she had hit me. I felt I deserved it somehow.
“Well, I don’t know!” I finally cried out, throwing my arms up in frustration. “I don’t know why you fucking expect me to magically know what’s right, Maddie, because I have no fucking clue! In case you don’t remember, I’m 16 too!”
“Well at least have a fucking OPINION!” she continued to yell.
“I GAVE YOU MY OPINION, YOU JUST DON’T LIKE IT!” I exploded, hands clenched at my side, my vision blurring.
“YOU DID NOT! YOU JUST AGREED TO EVERYTHING I SAID!”
“BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS A POSSIBILITY!” I pointed out in a shout.
“BUT WE CAN ONLY CHOOSE ONE!”
“NO FUCKING SHIT, GENIUS!”
“DON’T YOU TALK TO ME LIKE THAT!”
“I’LL TALK TO YOU HOW I WANT TO, MADDIE!”
“DON’T YOU DARE SAY MY NAME IN THAT TONE!”
…and so it continued, and not in a productive direction. It was as if the past few months of adoring love and care had suddenly vanished in an explosion of frustration and pain. I don’t know how long we screamed at each other, but eventually Maddie broke down into uncontrollable sobs.
I tried to say something else, something that would fix everything, but before I could think of anything Maddie fell onto the floor helplessly. The sight made me instantly deflate. I stared at her for a long moment, lost, before finally falling to my knees beside her and wrapping my arms around her. Surprisingly, she didn’t push me away.
“Look, I’m sorry,” I said hoarsely, my throat tight and my eyes back to burning. “I just- I really don’t know what to do,” I whispered. Maddie didn’t say anything; just continued to sob. “Maddie….it’s like this. I…I support you in whatever you decide. If you decide to get an abortion, I’ll support you. If you decide to give the baby up for adoption, I’ll support you. And if you decide to keep it…well then fuck I’m guess I’ll be a father because I’m going to support you in that too.” The words felt strange spoken in my voice, but I knew they were true. I’d never let Maddie go through any of this alone.
“I don’t think I could actually go through with it,” Maddie groaned after quite some time, her gaze unfocused. I stayed quiet, unsure of what exactly she was referring to, until she finally clarified. “The abortion, I mean. I’ve never had anything against it, but I just don’t think I could go through with it. And, and I just don’t know if I could give it up.”
I took in a breath, nodding slightly while my heart pounded in my chest. It wasn’t that I wanted Maddie to have an abortion or give the baby up, but the declaration of not doing either of those things meant that I was going to be a father at just 16 years old. Now I felt like crying all over again too. How can this have happened, when we were so careful? Or at least, I’d thought we’d been pretty careful, but apparently we had just been incredibly stupid, and now we were going to pay for it.
“Okay,” I said hoarsely, my hand on Maddie’s back. “Okay.”
Because, at that point, what else could I possibly say? All I could do was try and will my head to stop spinning, my stomach from lurching, and my thoughts from racing, but I failed at all these feats, left just wondering when my life had become such a cliché.
But that was the thing about clichés—clichéd as they were, they actually did happen, and that’s what made them clichéd in the first place.