The Secret of Ella and Micha / Chapter 7

Chapter 7


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Ella

Dean's got his music blasting upstairs at full volume and it's rattling the ceiling. I start picking up the garbage in the kitchen, avoiding the confrontation of seeing him again. Propping the trash can against my hip, I drag my arm along the counter, pushing a line of bottles into it.

I pull out the bag and tie the string shut, holding it far away from me. "God, that stinks."

"Still cleaning up after dad, I see." Dean enters the kitchen. He's dressed in slacks and a button down shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. His dark brown hair is cut short and it shows off the scar on the top of his forehead, where I accidently hit him during a freak accident while we were playing baseball with a tent pole and a basketball. "Nothing changes around here, even when you leave for a year." He opens the fridge and steals a beer. "Although, you do look different. Did you finally clean up your act?"

"Do you really care if I did?" I drag the garbage bag toward the back door. "I think you made it perfectly clear the last time you were here that you don't give a shit what happens to me."

He pops the cap off the bottle. "Are you still on that?"

"You told me I killed our mother," I say quietly. "How could I be over that?"

He sips his beer and shrugs. "I thought you left so you could move on with your life."

I summon a deep breath. "I didn't move on. I bailed just like you did."

"I ran away for the same reason you ran away because staying here means dealing with the past and our pasts are the kind that need to be locked away and never revisited."

"You mean dealing with mom's death. And the fact that it was my fault she's dead. Or that I'm responsible for her death."

He peels at the beer bottle label. "Why do you always have to be so blunt about everything? It makes people uncomfortable."

I'm changing back into my old ways and I need to collect myself. Opening the back door, I toss the garbage bag onto the back steps. "Do you want to go get some dinner or something? We could go out to Alpine where no one really knows us."

He shakes his head, gulps down the rest of the beer, and then tosses the empty bottle into the trash. "The only reason I came back here was to get the rest of my stuff. Then I'm out. I got stuff to go back to that's more important than family drama and alcoholic fathers."

He leaves me in the kitchen and a few seconds later, the music is turned up louder. It's an upbeat rhythm and it drives me crazy, so I crank on the kitchen radio, blasting "Shameful Metaphors" by Chevelle.

I start sweeping up the kitchen, blocking out my brother's words. He always liked to nitpick me apart, which was fine, but at the funeral, he crossed a line we can never come back from.

The back door swings open and the wind rushes in as my dad stumbles into the kitchen. His shoes are untied, his jeans are torn, and his red shirt is stained with dirt and grease. His hand is wrapped with an old rag that's soaked in blood.

Dropping the broom to the floor, I rush to him. "Oh my God, are you okay?"

He flinches from me and nods his head, staggering to the sink. "Just cut myself on the job. No biggie."

I turn down the music. "Dad, you weren't drinking at work, were you?"

He turns the faucet on and his head slumps over. "The guys and I had a couple of shots during lunch break, but I'm not drunk." He removes the rag and sticks his hand under the water, letting out a relieved sigh as the water mixes with his blood. "Is your brother home? I thought I saw his car in the driveway."

I grab a paper towel and clean up the blood he got on the counter and on the floor. "He's upstairs packing up some stuff or something."

He dabs his hand with a paper towel, wincing. "Well, that's good I guess."

I lean over to examine his hand. "Do I need to take you to the doctor? That looks like it might need stitches?"

"I'll be fine." He grabs a bottle of vodka, takes a swig, and then douses his hand with it.

"Dad, what are you doing?" I reach for the first aid kit above the sink. "Use the rubbing alcohol from the first aid kit."

Breathing through clenched teeth, he wraps up his hand with a paper towel. "See, good as new."

"It can still get infected." I take out the kit and set it on the counter. "You should really let me take you to a doctor."

He stares at me for a moment with his eyes full of agony. "God, you look so much like her, it's just crazy... "He drags his feet as he walks out the doorway and into the living room. Seconds later, I hear the television click on and the air fills with smoke.

Suppressed feelings surface as I put the first aid kit back into the cupboard. Cranking up the music, I drowning out my pain and busy myself with the dishes. My phone vibrates in my pocket and I wipe my hands off on a towel before checking my messages. There's the voicemail from Micha from yesterday that I still haven't listened to and a new text message from him.

The text message seems like the less dangerous of the two. My hand trembles as I read it over and over again, then finally respond. I toss the phone on the counter and focus on cleaning because it's simple. And simple is just what I want.

Micha

I barge into Ella's house. Something bad happened, probably because of her douche bag brother. Ella is scrubbing down the counters with the same amount of energy as a drummer. Her hair is pulled up, but pieces hang loose in her face. She has the music on, so she doesn't hear me come in. I walk up behind her, wanting to touch her, but instead I turn the music down.

She drops the paper towel she is holding and reels around. "You scared the hell out of me." She presses her hand to her chest. "I didn't hear you come in."

"That's kind of obvious." I search her green eyes, crammed with misery.

She fidgets with a stack of plates and carries them over to the cupboard before backtracking to the sink. She's wound up over something and too much energy is in her. Her mom was like that a lot of times. But Ella's not her mother, whether she realizes it or not.

I collect the plates from her hand and set them in the sink. "Do you want to tell me what's got you all worked up?"

Tapping her fingers on the sides of her legs, she shakes her head. "I should have never sent you that text. I don't know why I did it."

She starts to turn away from me, but I catch the bottom of her shirt. "Ella May, stop talking to me like we're business associates. I know you better than anyone and I know when something's bothering you."

"I said I was fine." Her voice is tight as she forces back the tears. The girl never lets herself cry, even when her mom died.

"No, you're not," I steer her by the shoulders toward me. "And you need to let it out."

She stares at the floor. "I can't."

I tuck my finger under her chin and raise her head up, looking into her eyes. "Yes, you can. It's killing you inside."

Her shoulders quiver and she lets her head fall against my chest. I rub her back and tell her it will be okay. It's not much, but it's enough for the moment.

Finally she pulls back and her face is unreadable. "Where's Lila?"

"I left her with Ethan at the shop." I sit down on the kitchen table that's stacked with unopened bills. "She's supposed to come back here when her car's fixed."

She gazes out the window, lost in her thoughts. "She could just go home after Ethan's done. She doesn't need to come back here."

"Where does she live?"

"In California."

"Then she probably shouldn't leave tonight." I glance out the window at the sun setting behind the shallow hills. "It's late and she's going to be driving by herself, right?"

Ella nods, spaced out as she twists her hair around her finger. "And I worry about her making the drive by herself. I mean she practically freaked out when we ran into Grantford at the restrooms over by the lake."

My fingers grip the edge of the table. "You ran into Grantford?"

She lowers her hand from her hair and lets it fall to her side. "Yeah, but it wasn't a big deal. He just acted like himself and you know how that is."

I release the table from my death grip, trying to clear the anger out of my head. No matter what Ella says, Grantford never should have left her on the bridge that night when she was that out of it.

I stretch my legs out in front of me and change the direction of the conversation. "How did you end up becoming friends with Lila?"

She bites down on her lip, contemplating. "We were roommates." She shrugs, letting her lip pop out from her teeth and it drives me crazy because all I want to do is bite down on it myself. "She was really nice and different from all my friends here and I wanted a change."

I hop off the table and move in front of her. "Change is good, but completely shutting down is a whole other story, Ella, have you... Did you ever talk to anyone about what happened with your mom?"

Her shoulders stiffen and she turns for the doorway, preparing to leave. "That's none of your business."

I block her path. "Yes it is. I've known you forever, so I get full rights to what's inside your head."

Her eyes narrow and she puts her hands on her hips. "Get out of my way, Micha Scott."

"What is it with you using my last name?" I say. "Before, when you'd get mad at me, you'd just call me a douche bag."

"I don't use those words anymore," she says flatly. "I'm nicer than that."

"Really?" I accuse. "Because you sure seem pissed off at me all the time."

"I'm trying not to be," she fumes. "But you're making it very hard for me."

"Alright, you need a time out. I've had enough of your stubborn crap." I pick her up by the waist and throw her over my shoulder.

She lets out a startled gasp, and pounds her fists onto my back. "Dammit Micha, put me down!"

Ignoring her, I walk out the back door and down the empty driveway. I think about grabbing her ass just because I can, but I'm afraid she might bite me... although, that doesn't sound bad.

"Micha," she complains furiously. "Put me down!"

My mom steps out of the house as I carry her toward the garage. She's dressed in a black dress a little too short for her age. Her highlighted hair is fluffed up like a poodle and her makeup is caked on. She must have a date.

She stops on the top step and tilts her head to the side to get a better look. "Ella, is that you?"

Ella stops fussing and lifts up her head to look at my mom. "Hi, Miss Scott. How are you?"

"Hi, honey, I'm doing good... but is there a reason Micha's carrying you like that?" she questions. "Are you hurt?"

Ella shakes her head. "No, I'm fine. Micha just thinks he's funny."

Which means she secretly likes what I'm doing, but won't admit it.

"Actually, I'm taking her for a ride," I say slyly, inching my hand up the back of Ella's leg, and she slaps the back of my head playfully. "I'm taking you for a ride in my car. And you think I'm the pervert?"

My mom sighs, shaking her head, and opens her purse. "Well, it's nice to see you two together again." She takes out her car keys and her heels click as she trots down the steps. "Micha sure has missed you while you were gone."

"Bye mom," I wave her off, heading for the garage again, as my mom climbs into her Cadillac parked in the street near the curb.

"Is she going on a date?" Ella asks curiously.

"She's been going on a lot of dates lately." I swing open the car door and set her down in the passenger seat.

She tries to climb out. "I'm not going anywhere tonight Micha."

I gently push her back into the seat. "I'm not going to let you sit around in your room and sulk while your brother's around. Let's go out and have some fun."

She pauses, crossing her arms over her chest and her boobs nearly pop out of her top. "But I need to be there when Lila comes back. I can't just let her come back to Dean and my dad passed out on the couch."

"I'll take care of it." I rip my gaze from her tits, take out my cell phone, and text Ethan.

Me: Taking Ella up to The Back Road. Wanna get Lila and meet us up there?

Ella slumps back into the seat. "What are you up to?"

I hold up my finger. "Just a sec."

Ethan: Yeah, sounds cool.

Me: Is Lila up for it? And make sure u ask her. Don't just assume.

Ethan: She said she's good... but is Ella ok with going up there?

Me: We'll c when we get up there.

Ethan: Dude, she's gonna kick ur ass.

Me: C U there.

I stuff my phone into the back pocket of my jeans and close her door before climbing into the driver's seat.

"Where are you taking me?" she asks, trying to appear annoyed but her inquisitiveness seeps through her eyes.

"It's a surprise." Once the garage door is open, I peel down the driveway. "And Lila and Ethan are going to meet us there."

"A surprise, huh?" she mulls it over. "I'm not a fan of surprises."

My lips spread to a grin. "You're such a liar."

She stays silent and I know I've won this one, which is rare, but I'll take it. With a swift crank of the steering wheel, I align the car onto the road and spin the tires off into the night, happy because I managed to chip away a tiny piece of that armor she's wearing.


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