"Just because I owe you does not mean that I am your slave!"
Amelia muttered as she got inside the passenger seat of her fraternal twin brother's mustang. She grumbled as he unceremoniously dumped his literature and history worksheets on her lap.
Mark reached over and tugged on his sister's high ponytail as she continued glaring at him through her glasses.
"I'm sorry, Lee-lee," He mused “but, you owe me for a lifetime and that's almost equivalent to servitude."
"I don't like you right now." She replied, scrunching her nose at him but sighed with defeat as she shoved the papers inside her bag. "I can't wait to graduate next year and go off to college where you won't be bossing me around."
Mark chuckled as he pulled out of the school parking lot. He honked a couple of times to a group of athletes huddled near the remaining few cars in the area. They waved as they also began climbing into their own vehicles.
"Oh, you love me. I'm your favorite brother in the whole wide world!" He retorted while speeding out of the school lot.
The Chandler twins were popular in school but in different ways. Mark Chandler is the star forward and captain of the basketball team. He is also considered one of the hottest specimen in all of senior high. It is inevitable with his dark brown hair, deep forest green eyes and well-built tall frame plus he is also quite intelligent.
"I just said I don't like you- I think that insinuates that I'm also not loving you at the moment." She retorted but pinched his cheeks to soften the teasing blow. "And, you are my only brother in the whole wide world so, favoritism isn't even applicable."
Amelia Chandler is popular by association. At least, that was what she kept on insisting. She isn't athletic and definitely not one of the popular seniors. Although her best friend insists that Amelia could put any girl to shame with her long chestnut dark hair, emerald green eyes and tall, slim figure. Amelia believes she is more of a geek material than a queen bee. Plus, she seems to be more klutzy than model-esque!
"Want to stop for milkshakes?"
Amelia huffed. "Well, with all the slave labor I'm getting, I deserve a treat."
Mark laughed and turned right at the intersection and headed to the nearby diner called Shake Shark, a popular hang out of the teenagers who went to the nearby high school. He fished out his cellphone and called Clark Lewis, his best friend and fellow varsity player.
“Clark, I'm at the diner with Lia. You guys want to hang?"
Amelia gasped. "What? No! We have to go home early, Mark. I have essays to do!"
Mark grinned at her as he hung up. He slid onto the available parking spot and cut the engine.
"Aw c'mon, Lee-lee! Senior year just started two weeks ago. Take a breather." He pinched her cheek and then got out of the car.
Amelia grumbled again, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose. She yanked her bag from her body and threw it at the backseat.
Tightening her ponytail, she heard the sound of engines and sighed as Mark's car was sandwiched between Clark's Wrangler Jeep and Alex Corbin's Ford Pickup truck. They must have been leaving the parking lot from school when Mark called. Sheesh! They just had practice together now they want to hang out...
She forgot how near the school was to the diner.
She shook her head and got out of the car. She was quickly surrounded by four tall guys who made up the starting five, together with her brother, of the basketball team. Clark, Alex, Tom Harrison and Mike Lowe. They all greeted her with tugs on her ponytail.
"Ugh. Didn't I just see you guys a while ago?" She muttered while swatting their hands away from her hair.
"Aw.. You already miss us, Lee-lee?" Alex cooed at her, giving her hair another tug.
"Stop!" She hissed, slapping his hand away. "You guys smell. I thought you have decent shower rooms."
Clark laughed and slung an arm around Amelia's shoulder.
"We do but the smell of sweat makes us feel more manly." He joked while wiggling his eyebrows at her.
Amelia laughed and shoved him off her. "Okay, okay. If I tell you that you all smell like deodorant and soap- absolutely heavenly in every girl's opinion- will you leave my hair alone?"
"Nope." All four guys chorused.
"Hey, hey! Lay off my sister you jackasses!"
Amelia shook her head but laughed all the same. One of the reasons why she was not that popular among all the girls in school was because most of them were envious about her closeness with almost the entire basketball team. Most of the cheerleaders were hating on her as well as half of the school's female population out of sheer jealousy and envy.
Amelia knew the guys because they always hung out with her brother. It was like having additional four brothers in the house. She really did not hang out a lot with them when they went out to parties or out of town trips even though she was welcome to come along. But being Mark's twin sister automatically just made her part of the group!
Most of the ladies in the senior class did try to be friends with Amelia but only because they wanted to be introduced to these guys and hang out with them. Frankly, it was not hard, especially if you were a really hot, good looking girl. The guys with the exception of Clark and Mark, were pretty easy to please. However, they were not the committing type.
Plus, being a gorgeous fling or one night stand for these popular athletes did not automatically merit an "in" in their cozy group. In fact, these guys were pretty tight and really close to each other.
The only girls, aside from Amelia, who were pretty tight with the group were Kate Lowe, Mike’s half-sister and Melissa Lewis who was Clark's cousin.
If one of them had a girlfriend, then she would also be in the group. Clark used to have a girlfriend but they broke up over the summer. Amelia was going to miss Cindy who moved to another state to finish her senior year.
"How's Cindy?" She asked Clark as the two of them were the last ones in the line as the group moved inside the building.
Clark smiled but it did not reach his crystal blue eyes. "Uh- I think she's doing good. I haven't actually talked to her for a while."
"Oops... Sorry, I did not mean to pry." She replied, blushing.
"No worries. I'm pretty okay with it, I guess." He replied giving her shoulder a squeeze.
"Yo Clark! Hands off my sister, dude." Mark barked from the corner booth where in the guys decided to settle in. There were some people from school as well and they all looked towards the direction of the basketball players.
Amelia found herself suddenly wrapped in a bear hug. Clark had decided to hug the living daylights out of her. She shivered but felt her face warm up.
"What if I don't? I happen to like where she is at the moment. Are you all snug and comfy, Amelia?"
Amelia could hear Clark's voice rumbling from his chest and she could not help but giggle.
"Let go of me- really, Clark- you know he's going to-"
Before she could finish her sentence, Amelia felt herself being yanked away from Clark's warm hug. She could not help but laugh out loud as her brother already had Clark's neck under his biceps.
"I told you he was going to manhandle you, Clark." She called out as she made her way to the table where the rest of the guys were sitting and laughing.
Amelia stopped walking. She knew that voice but she did not turn around. It just was not worth it. She squared her shoulder and then squeezed herself in between Alex and Tom.
She forced herself not to look towards the direction where the person who called her a slut was sitting with a few of her friends Instead, Amelia grabbed one of the menus and tried to look as if the Diner's shakes and combos were the most fascinating things in the world.
"Dude, you know Amelia's off limits to any of us." Mike said as Mark and Clark joined the table, still trying to wrestle each other. Obviously, there was no real animosity between them. It was just an old joke.
Clark shook his head and his blond hair fell over his eyes. He gave Mark a final shove before they both settled down. Amelia grinned as Clark gave her a playful wink.
"Yeah, Clark. My sister is off limits to all the guys- not just you dorks. So, no hard feelings." Mark announced.
Amelia rolled her eyes. "I'm sitting right here and I would gladly thank you if you did not discuss me as if i'm some property to be claimed or conquered."
"I'll conquer you anytime, sweet pea!" Tom joked winking dramatically at Amelia. She laughed and shoved him with her shoulder.
“Quit it, Tom. I'll break your nose." Clark snapped.
"You're just jealous because I'm her favorite." Tom replied.
The guys groaned in unison. It had always been like that whenever the guys would get together and Amelia was present. They would debate about who her favorite was among the four guys. Mark was not included since he was her twin. So, they have been trying their best to see who got top spot in Amelia's favorite person's list.
"I am not in the mood to play that game, boys." Amelia muttered. She fished her cellphone from her pocket and texted her best friend to tell her where they were.
She was about to call the waitress when she noticed Mark and Clark exchange a meaningful look. She frowned and realized that her brother was already looking at the neighboring booth. Amelia sighed and met Clark's gaze. She shook her head, trying to tell him that it did not matter.
"Do you want to leave, sis?" Mark asked in a low voice that only they could hear.
“Yeah, I don't mind if we went some place else." Clark added giving her a grin. The other guys were pretty slow on the uptake and decided to call the waitress.
She shook her head. "I'm going to be fine. I told you I would be, Mark. Please.”
Amelia glared at her brother before pleading with him with her eyes. She did not need any of his dramatics at the moment not when she was starting to feel more normal at the moment.
"What's going on?" Alex asked, breaking away from Mike's and Tom's conversation with the waitress whom they were flirting with.
"She's here." Was all Clark said and Alex looked at Amelia, his gaze asking the same question.
Amelia shook her head and gave them an exasperated look.
"I am not a child. I can handle it." She almost snarled.
Mark gave her a dubious and worried look but nodded in the end. He promised his sister that he was going to trust her in exchange for a lifetime of IOUs. So, he was going to do it. Besides, it had already been almost a year.
"I'll have the Strawberry milkshake and some chilly cheese fries." Amelia chimed as soon as the waitress managed to stop flirting and ask for her order.
She leaned back and snuck a peek at the booth nearest to theirs. She could see the tops of their heads, all blonds. Amelia could feel a twinge of sadness in her heart followed by the familiar feeling of guilt and pain. For a moment, she thought she was going to lose it.
"Should I cancel our orders?" Alex asked. "She's definitely spacing out."
"Stop it!" She hissed, glaring at all of them. "Ugh. I don't know why I am sitting here with all you overbearing monsters."
The faint tension in the booth dissipated and the guys were suddenly back in their teasing moods.
“Overbearing monsters?" Tom asked. "We're your knights in shining armors. Really, Lia, you don’t know how many ladies would pay to be here with us.”
Amelia made a face at Tom before shoving him lightly with her shoulder.
"More like babysitters, if you ask me!" She muttered. "Sometimes I don't get why you're all so protective of me. I can take care of myself."
"Hey, you're one of us. We protect each other!" Mike responded.
"You don't see me standing like some thug in front of you as you pursue your next one night stand victim, Mikey boy."
"Because, all the protection I need for that is safely tucked inside my wallet." He replied, patting his back pocket and grinning slyly at everyone in the booth.
Their orders finally came and Amelia was glad that along with it was Clark's cousin, Melissa. She had the same light blond hair but her eyes were steel gray. They were all in the same classes and Amelia considered her as one half of her best friends.
"Scoot over." She announced, shoving Clark while she squeezed herself in the booth. Melissa always had such a strong personality and clearly did whatever she pleased.
"What are you doing here, Mel?" Clark asked, trying to pry his basket of fries from his cousin's well-manicured hands. She slapped his hand away and began eating his food.
"Nice to see you too, cuz." She replied. "I saw your cars parked while I was on my way home."
"Amelia texted you." Clark muttered, shooting Amelia a look that said she betrayed him. She smiled sheepishly and shrugged nonchalantly.
"Whatever." She muttered and turned to Amelia. "Listen, I heard that Bruce Stratford is planning on asking you out."
Everyone except the two girls looked at Mark and they all burst out laughing.
"That should be entertaining enough." Tom hooted before taking a bite from his cheeseburger.
"Oy! I forgot- we're surrounded by idiots." Melissa retorted. "I should have just talked to you in private."
Amelia could not help but laugh. "It's okay, Mel. He's not really my type."
"Ooh- so can I have him? He's so dreamy."
One of the things that Amelia loved about Melissa was the fact that she was not afraid to say anything. She's one of the most outspoken persons that Amelia knows. It was refreshing.
Amelia laughed more when Clark rolled his eyes at his cousin. "You're not going out with him either. He's a douche!"
Melissa laughed. "Everyone's a douche to you, Clarky. In fact, I think Amelia should stop hanging out with you guys. It intimidates a lot of very interested men from asking her out."
"Amelia is not allowed to date. You know that." Alex muttered.
“Wow! How old is she? Twelve?" Melissa retorted. "Come on, Lia. You know it's been already a year since-"
"Hey, didn't you say you had those essays to finish?" Mark suddenly asked.
Amelia could feel Mark's body tense even if they were a table apart. She knew him too well and of course, with everything that happened last year, she could not blame him at all for being too protective and paranoid. Perhaps her twin brother is not ready to speak of Lia’s love life as flippantly as Mel did.
"Are you leaving?" Clark asked his best friend, understanding the situation more than the rest of the people in the group. Among the friends, it was only Clark whom Mark trusted enough to share the real reason behind his over protectiveness when it came to his twin sister.
"Yeah. I'm tired from practice and Lee-lee's got those essays."
"But, I just got here!" Melissa complained. She shot Lia a confused look to which her best friend responded with a small shake of her head. She smiled before standing up.
Mark grinned and shoved his half-finished Nachos. "And you get to finish my food, Mel!"
The guys made room so that the twins could get out of the booth. Amelia shot Melissa an apologetic look.
She just nodded. "I'll call you later, Lia."
With a wave to all of them and careful not to look at the people in the other booth, Amelia followed her brother out of the diner.
Well, it’s a start. Amelia thought as she followed her brother to his car with a heavy heart.
"We did not have to leave, you know." She mumbled, unable to help herself as Mark drove towards the direction of their home. "You're too paranoid."
"Well, you can't blame me, Amelia." He said, the tension was in his voice and it hit her like a wave slamming on the shore. "I have enough reason to be worried. You and I both know that."
Amelia did not say anything but just stared out the window. She heaved a sigh and felt defeated. She had been expecting things to look up since she was now allowed to go back to school and finish her senior year like a normal teenager.
I guess some things in the past just can't be forgotten so easily... She thought sadly. She leaned her head back against the headrest and closed her eyes wishing that she could just go back in time and redo everything.