Chapter One

3290 Words
Harper I ran my hand through my dark brown hair. My cousin Hope just texted me telling me she has something serious to talk to me about. I’m concerned. Hope has struggled since our senior year in high school. She cut our whole family off and a little over three years ago, when our Grandmother Diane passed away and she finished college was I able to convince her to come home of a sort. The only way she agreed was I convinced her to share a house with me. Hope still barely spends time with the family and she only really talks to me usually. She has made improvements since we moved in together. I still have to act like her dad a lot. Hope will close herself in her studio in the house for days on end and not eat, barely sleep, shower, and all the other things she needs to do to take care of herself. I have to remind her or make her eat sometimes. My dad came out of Uncle Jordan and Aunt Alaina’s office. He caught my eyes as he descended the steps. My dad is still great looking after all these years. He just turned fifty-six a little over a month ago and he doesn’t look a day over maybe thirty-eight to forty-two age range. He can still make women swoon over him, but he only has eyes for my mom. She is the only woman he wants swooning over him. Ironically, I look more like my Uncle Jordan. I got both my dad and uncle’s dark brown hair, but I got hazel eyes like my Uncle Jordan and my younger cousin Jordy. If people didn’t know us, many would think my uncle was my dad and my cousin was my younger brother. “Everything alright?” My dad asked as he arrived at my desk. “I don’t know. Hope texted me she needs to talk to me about something serious. I’m a little nervous and concerned.” You could see some pain cross my dad’s eyes. For a few weeks, my dad, Uncle Jordan, and Uncle Jayson all thought Hope was the first born of us kids, not me. She also came about from a tragic situation that literally saved my Uncle Jordan, Uncle Jayson, and my dad from despair when my Aunt Alaina almost died from her previous boss running her down with a car. Looking forward to having Hope gave my uncle and aunt well hope for the future. It hit my dad hard because he grew up with Aunt Alaina constantly at their house every summer since she was nine. She was like a little sister to him. Almost losing her hurt my dad too. So, when Hope was born, my dad and Uncle Jayson felt almost like she was their daughter a little bit too. That was until my dad discovered my mom had given birth to me a couple of months earlier. My mom took over to feed Hope so Aunt Alaina could go back on the medicine she desperately needed to help finish healing her broken body. Hope and I have rarely been apart through most of our childhood. “Go home to her. Help her through this.” “But I’m not done my work day today.” “Son, you know how fragile Hope is more than the rest of us. If it is serious to her, you need to take it serious too.” “You sure?” “Yes, as your boss and father go home to your cousin and help her through whatever is troubling her.” I nodded and began shutting my computer down and putting things away for tomorrow. I chose to follow my dad and uncle and work for the company they established. It was mostly my dad who wanted to run a company and because of Uncle Jordan’s altered solar powered battery that could help with many devices, especially phones, it made him a billionaire by the time he was twenty-seven. My dad convinced his younger brother to start a company that would invent or search out environmentally safe things to make our world a better place. They called it The Green Company. The irony is their/our last name is Green. I made my way out to my SUV. I drove home. I parked in our garage and made my way to the door to the inside. I pressed my thumb to the finger plate to unlock the door. Hope and I have made certain improvements to the house. Using thumbprint access ensures I know that Hope is protected when I’m away, even if she isn’t paying attention. We also installed holographic projectors all over the house that Hope suggested we install. I was a little leery about it at first, but it has made things so much easier. There are invisible menu control panels on some of the solid surfaces, but you can use the menu in midair as well. It can be voice activated as well. It has replaced all the televisions and computers for the most part in the house. They usually project a beautiful sandy beach scene with the ocean waves crawling up the shore. It has a calming effect and Hope loves the image. “I’m home!” I called out. No response. “Hope.” Nothing. I accessed the live messaging on the holographic projector over the kitchen island. “Hey, where are you?” Hope’s image came on. “I’m in the backyard.” I nodded and we ended the live communication. I made my way to the doors to the backyard. Hope is rarely anywhere except her studio. I’m surprised the live message showed her out of the studio. She lets absolutely no one in her studio anymore. Well, not since the movers moved her equipment in. I got to see the studio when we were looking over the house, but since then it's closed off to all. “What are you doing…” I stopped talking abruptly. The girl I had a thing for since we were young was sitting on a patio chair near Hope. They were sipping what looked like iced teas. “Ry…Ryann.” I stammered. She kept her head down and barely looked at me. “Harper.” She said softly that I barely heard it. Her light brown wavy locks of hair were hiding most of her face, especially her beautiful pale green eyes. I took the chair opposite Hope. “Harper, I, uh well, I invited Ryann to stay with us. She is trying to finish college and she can’t afford college, a place to stay on her own and such to finish. I’ll pay to let her use your spare bedroom. I just wanted to help her out.” I caught Ryann glance up between her hair. “Uh, Hope, it's okay. This was a bad idea.” Ryann responded. “Nonsense,” Hope replied. I had to stop my racing heart to have Ryann so close to me constantly. “It is fine. We need to order a bed for her.” I replied. “I didn’t think about that.” Hope whined a little. “I have a sleeping bag. I’m good.” “You’re not sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor of the bedroom. Do you have any furniture at all?” I kind of demanded. Ryann shook her head no. “Well then let me change and we are going to go furniture shopping as soon as I’m done changing. Get yourself ready too, Hope.” Hope actually beamed as I made my way back inside and to my room. It didn’t surprise me. Hope didn’t think to get Ryann furniture for the bedroom. I pulled out some jeans and a t-shirt. I stripped my pants and button-up shirt. I tossed them in the hamper to wash them later. It's Friday, so at least I can relax for the weekend. I grabbed my keys, wallet, and phone from where I set them on my bed when I was changing. I don’t have to work if I don’t want to. Hope doesn’t either. None of us kids have to work for a living if we don’t want to. I’m not going to turn Ryann away when she needs the help. Although she used to be like us in the not needing money category at least. I went back into the living room and Hope and Ryann were waiting. “Lets take my car.” We filed out into the garage. I unlocked my car, and they piled in. I drove to one of the respectable furniture stores that has quality furniture. “I can’t afford furniture here,” Ryann said. “Who said anything about you paying for it?” Hope reminded her. “Hope.” Ryann said low. “I don’t want to hear it. Get what you need. I want you to be able to finish college without worrying about everything else. I wouldn’t have offered if I wasn’t prepared to take care of you financially too.” Ryann seemed to acquiesce to Hope. I caught the glimpse of Hope as she used to be before things changed for her. Hope practically dragged Ryann by hand through the store. Ryann chose a queen-sized bed with a quality mattress. Hope made her get a desk that she could comfortably work at to study and a couple of bookcases, night stands, an oversized comfortable chair with foot stool to match, in case Ryann wanted a comfortable place to study from or just relax too. Hope paid for a rush to have the furniture delivered by early tomorrow morning. Hope offered Ryann to sleep in her bed tonight and she would sleep on a bed she keeps in her studio. “You need clothes, and we need to get groceries,” Hope suggested. Hope was not taking no for an answer from Ryann. We had my trunk space filled by the time we got back home. I set Ryann’s thumbprint to be able to access the house. I felt like Hope was going a little overboard with all she purchased for Ryann until Ryann brought only one large suitcase with all her belongings in it inside from her used car. I knew what her father, Gordan did, had affected her, but I didn’t realize it got this bad. I ordered us pizza for dinner since we had been out all day and I missed lunch coming home early. ~~~ I walked down the hall to get to my room after seeing the furniture delivery men back outside the house. I knocked on Ryann’s open door. She looked like she was about to make her bed. “Want some help with that?” “Sure.” I stood on the opposite side, and she fluffed out the bottom sheet in the air before letting it settle. We each tucked the sheet in at the corners of the sides we were on. She did the same with the top sheet and the blanket. I grabbed one of her new pillows and a pillowcase and began putting it on. Ryann kept giving me side glances. “Are you excited for school?” “Yeah. I can’t believe I am going to graduate after all.” “After all?” “I’ve been struggling since my grandmother died a few months ago and my dad is still in the wind. Some of the people he cheated have been successful in suing his estate. My grandmother couldn’t change her will and when she passed everything that she left my dad they snatched up, including seventy-five percent of her house. It had to be sold and I received twenty-five percent of the sale price. It has allowed me to figure out a way to pay for my last year of college though I wanted to give up.” “I couldn’t afford college and living expenses and such, like Hope told you. I swear I didn’t intend for her to offer me a place to live and take care of me. I was just thanking her for the small painting she did of my grandmother. We got to catching up and one thing led to another and here I am. I promise I’ll pay her back.” “She won’t accept it. Just pay her back by working hard to finish your degree.” She gave me a quick smile and nod. “Hey, do you want to come to my parents' we can swim and if my dad is home he will probably grill something for us.” “What about Hope?” “Hope may not come even if I ask.” I replied. “What if I ask?” “Try it. You’ll have to contact her through the live messaging in the holographic projectors.” “Show me.” I showed Ryann how to use the holographic projector in her room. She contacted Hope and somehow got Hope to agree to come with us. Fifteen minutes later, we were in my car headed to my parents' house. I pulled up to the gate. “Hey Axel.” “Good to see you Harper.” He opened the gate for me. Avery moved off property to be with Dannie. Axel stayed in the house my dad built for them with his wife Michelle. Avery works for my dad a few days out of the week to give Axel time off. Axel used to monitor the gate through the night, and he technically still does, though through security screens. Occasionally there is an animal that hits the fencing, usually a deer, but it only happens maybe once a year or every other year in the middle of the night. I parked and we got out. I headed inside with Hope and Ryann following me. “Hooooo!” I could hear my brother Mason in the main living room calling out. He was dancing around with a controller in his hand in front of his twin, Madison. “What’s going on here?” I asked. “Harper!” Maddie exclaimed and ran up to me and hugged me. “Stop sucking up Maddie.” Maddie turned on her twin. “I can kick your *ss easy Mason. I wanted to give my big brother a hug.” Maddie scolded him. She pulled me in her arms tighter and whispered in my ear. “Please kick his *ss in the game for me.” I held my chuckle in and gave her a subtle squeeze. “Mason, Maddie, you remember our friend Ryann.” I stepped to the side to introduce them finally. Mason nodded, but I could see his look of semi-interest and semi-disgust. I’ll have to have a talk with him more privately. I will not stand for him disrespecting her. Maddie was shaking her hand and Mason gave her a quick and curt handshake. I noticed Hope had taken Maddie’s controller and started the game as she plopped herself on the floor. “Hey!” Mason complained and rushed for his spot again to take Hope on. I had to chuckle because Hope was quickly kicking his *ss at the game. “Where’s mom and dad?” I asked. “Mom and Jenna are at work. Dad went to Uncle Jayson’s.” Maddie responded. “Okay, well, I’m getting in the pool. Its too hot.” I looked at Ryann because Hope was preoccupied with Mason. She gave a one-shoulder shrug. I took her hand and led her to the backyard and the pool. I yanked my t-shirt off and pulled out a couple towels from the cupboard where we keep them and set them on the lounger I set my shirt on. I kicked my flip flops off and made my way to the edge of the pool to dive in. When I surfaced, I turned to look at Ryann and she was laying her wrap on the other lounger and had kicked her sandals off. The pink bikini she was wearing was causing me to have issues. I had to start swimming some laps to control the hard-on I was starting to sport. What could I say? Her body is even more beautiful now if that is possible. Ryann was floating on her back just relaxing. I continued to swim some laps. “Cannon ball!” Maddie screeched before she jumped in next to me, pushing me into the side of the pool. Mason was next to jump in and Hope climbed in using the stairs in the shallow end of the pool. Soon we were laughing and splashing at each other. “What is all this racket?” I heard my dad’s booming voice. He had a huge grin on his face. I watched as he noticed Ryann, but the look that he tried to hide in excitement that Hope was here too. “Do you all want burgers for dinner?” We nodded our agreement or called it out. My dad smiled to be able to be in his element and make dinner for everyone. Hope pushed Mason’s head underwater with Maddie’s help. I grasped Ryann and lifted her, going up the steps at the shallow end and running to the deep end. She shrieked when I picked her up. I dove back in with her in the deep end. We surfaced and she sprayed me with a face full of water. She was grinning as I was trying to wipe the excess water from my face. I went in to help my dad prepare dinner while my siblings and Hope continued to enjoy the pool. Dad gave me a look. “Hope invited her to live with us. She is not her dad.” “I understand, but…” “No, buts dad. She was a kid. She was innocent. She did not make her dad embezzle money from so many people, including you and Uncle Jordan. She has already started to pay again for what her dad did. She lost the only other home she has because of her dad, all because she lost her grandmother.” “I’m sorry son. You are right. I will keep my feelings towards her father only.” “Good. Now tell Mason that too because he gave the look too when he saw her.” “I will.” The door opened while I seasoned the burger meat for my dad. “Harper, I wasn’t expecting you here.” My mom approached me. “I would hug you mom, but I have burger fingers.” She hugged me around my shoulder and kissed the side of my head. She kissed dad. “Hope is here and their friend Ryann.” “Hope.” My mom said softly. I nodded to confirm. “Ryann is going to live with us to finish school when it starts. Hope invited her.” I explained to my mom. “Are you going to be okay with that?” She asked. “Mom, look what she did. She got Hope to come here with us. I’m not saying she’ll get Hope to come to everything, but Hope hasn’t attended anything since my birthday last year. Granted she wasn’t home this year to attend, but…” “You are right. I hope having Ryann around will help bring Hope out and about more.” My parents gave me a look of understanding what could be at stake. It would be nice to not have to worry so much over Hope on a daily basis. Regardless, I’ll be here for her and now Ryann.
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