Maybe This TimeBy: Chantal Fernando
This isn't exactly how I expected to meet him for the first time.
I wait outside the jail, nervously glancing around as if someone could mug me at any second.
And they probably could.
Finally, after an hour of waiting, he walks out. He's tall and muscular, with a familiar head of light brown hair. His stride is confident, sure. A smile quirks his full lips when he sees me, and he instantly quickens his pace. As he steps right in front of me, I stare into hazel eyes that are so different from my own dark brown.
“Summer,” he says, his eyes crinkling with warmth. I huff out a sigh, trying to look put out, but then fall into his embrace the second he opens his arms to me. I squeeze him tight, not wanting to let go.
He smells like cigarettes and leather, but I couldn’t care less.
“'Bout time you came home,” he says, rubbing my back.
“I know, I just felt guilty,” I say truthfully, pulling from his embrace. If my mother was alive, she wouldn’t want me to be here.
“You have no reason to feel guilty. Come on, let’s get out of here.”
I nod and watch as my brother gets into my car.
“You gonna tell me why I had to pick you up from jail?” I can’t stop myself from asking.
“Misunderstanding,” is all he tells me. It’s a bit late for me to play the big sister role, so I don’t ask him anything else. Instead I sigh, and ask him for directions to his house.
Xander is only a year younger than me, but this is the first time I've met him in person. I can’t help glancing at him from the corner of my eye every now and again, taking in his every movement, his every feature. His hair is long, almost to his shoulders, and he has a dimple in his chin. He's covered in tattoos, with two full sleeves and even a few peeking out from under his collar. His knuckles are split open, like he’d gotten into a fight recently.
I've waited for this day for years, but now that it’s here I’m not quite sure what to say or do.
“You might wanna keep your eyes on the road,” he says, amusement lacing his tone. I don’t answer him, but turn my head forward. Xander leans forward and puts the CD player on. Drake’s ‘Started from the Bottom’ starts to play, and I can feel his amused gaze on me. He skips to the next song, which happens to be ‘How Do You Want It’ by 2pac. He turns the music off and the rest of the drive is quiet.
“Turn left here, and keep going.” I follow his instructions, glad for the distraction.
“Right here, Summer. It’s the third house on the left,” he says, pointing.
“Okay. Dad won’t be here, will he?” I ask quietly after we pull up in the driveway to a large brick house.
Not what I was expecting at all.
Xander flashes me an unreadable look. “No, he’s not here.” I exhale in relief. No way am I ready to see him just yet.
“Open the boot and I’ll get your bags,” Xander offers. My brother is chivalrous, interesting. Looks like my mother was wrong about him in so many ways.
I lean against the car, playing with the rips in my distressed jeans as he takes out my bags. He starts to walk towards the house, dragging my pink leopard print suit case with him. I bite my lip, trying not to laugh at a rough looking man covered in tattoos with such a girly accessory. Xander turns around when he realizes I’m not following him, and raises an eyebrow in question.
I reluctantly take a step towards the house.
Towards my new life.
My temporary new life, or so I’ve been telling myself. Xander opens the door wide for me to enter, and I hesitantly step in behind him.
This is the house that Xander grew up in, with my father.
And I’d never even seen it until today. My greedy eyes take every detail in, until my gaze stops on Xander watching me closely.
“Your room is the first on the right.” I don’t know what he saw when he looked at me, but it caused him to soften.
“Okay,” I say, heading towards my room.
“I’ll go out and get us some dinner. Make yourself at home, Summer,” I hear him say behind me.
I nod, even though he can't see it.
The house might be older, but inside it looks modern and welcoming. My room is spacious, especially compared to my old room. My mother may have been financially stable but there was just the two of us, so we shared a three bedroom apartment. It was in a good area, but the rooms weren’t large like the one I'm standing in right now. The bed is a queen size, surrounded by a wooden heard board and side tables. There's a dressing table with a huge mirror, and two sets of drawers. Opening the wardrobe, I find more drawers, and space to hang my clothes. A lot of space. There's an unopened set of pink sheets for the bed in the cupboard, along with new pillows and a doona. I grin, imagining Xander shopping for these items for me.