Quietly, out of the corner of his eyes, Chase watched his sister and her boyfriend Logan in the midst of yet another make out session while supposedly making popcorn for a movie night at the Beach House, their parents were giving them privacy, although he suspected that neither would see much of whatever movie they had chosen anyway.
Suddenly, he felt hands on his shoulder, winced hard, then heard his father’s voice whisper
“Your eyes may get stuck like that!”
Blake chuckled then said louder, addressed at the lovebirds
“And you two, keep it PG-13, will ya? As far as I am concerned, she is still my little girl and I have no scruples turning you into fish fodder, bud!” Blake winked at Logan as he passed him towards the coffee maker.
“Yes Sir, we will!” Logan confirmed politely, while Kiera giggled.
“Coffee now, at this hour, dad?” Chase asked worried.
“Do I have to revoke your Cameron card, son? A true Cameron drinks coffee at any hour of the day – or night – and still sleeps like a baby. We are born with 50% blood and 50% Arabica in our veins!”
Blake tried for a grumpy face, but the sound of his voice belied it.
He was highly amused by his son’s behavior, and by watching his daughter plus boyfriend giggle on their way to the living room, where he knew their affections would continue, no matter what he told them, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Like his grandfather KC before him with firm hand, lots of love and support, he and Hailey had created an environment in which their children thrived. Evidently that comfort level extended to Kiera’s boyfriend, as he seemed to feel right at home without ever being disrespectful.
“Dad … just worried about your heart. You know, after grandpa …” Chase started and was interrupted.
“Your grandpa is fine! He just works too much, still, even at his ripe old age, then he gets so stressed out all the time, that was bound to land him in the hospital sooner or later. They didn’t even keep him overnight. He realized that he needs to take it slower and is letting your uncle handle more of the day to day business. Eli can definitely handle drama, knowing that wife of his. But your grandpa’s health issues have nothing to do with me or coffee and everything with the fact that a 70 year old shouldn’t work like he did when he was 30. I am strong as a bull with stamina to boot. Ask your mother.” Blake grinned, wiggling his eyebrows to underline the insinuation.
“Ugh – dad!” Chase frowned.
“Nothing to ‘ugh’ about. But while we are on topic, why are you sitting your butt flat at home – AGAIN – on a Saturday night, stalking your younger sister, rather then go out and work on finding someone to do all those things with yourself? Much more fun than living vicariously through other people, let me tell ya.”
“I am not desperate for a date, thank you very much, dad! And I am not ‘vicariously living through’ my sister, the facial expression you saw was sheer disgust. I would never act like that at my girlfriend’s home, if I had one, which I don’t and am totally fine with that fact.” Chase told a half-lie.
“You are almost 23 and still single. Take it from someone who would know better, that’s not healthy. I used to purposely not date and it is a very lonely place leading to lots of bad decisions. You know what they say about all work and no play, right? Call your BFF Charlie and go out with him. Or your college roomie Zach. Or that other poser kid from college, whatever his name was.” Blake suggested gently.
“Bryce is his name. Charlie is my age and single too, hates clubbing or bars and the other two are almost 4 years older than me, also single last I heard. And they both go to the kind of clubs and meet the kind of girls that I am really not into, I doubt the kind you and mom want me to bring home. Besides, I really need to be in the mood to deal with Bryce and I am not tonight.” Chase was not thrilled about the current topic.
“Speaking of … maybe you prefer the other sex. Ever looked into that?” Blake carefully suggested.
“I AM NOT GAY DAD! For heaven’s sake!”
Chase jumped up and the combination of seeing his little sister make out on the couch just a few feet away from him and his father’s words just were too much for him.
“Nothing wrong if you were … ” Blake shrugged.
“Well, I am not. I need some air!” Chase grabbed his jacket and just rushed out of the front door, hearing his father reprimand his sister and Logan.
“Hey, I thought I specifically told the two of you not to get X-rated here! That’s it, you will sit two hand-widths apart for the rest of the night, better yet, I will join you, that should cool you down! Why are both my kids malfunctioning in the worst way tonight, huh?”
Before he realized where he was even going, he was almost to his uncle’s house, just a small ways across the beach and up the rocky footpath to the cliffs. There was a secluded bench, perfect for reflecting on one’s life.
He and his cousin Briar Rose, who was also more on the quiet and melancholic side, had often met there to reminisce, plan their futures and just talk about anything and nothing – or not talk at all and just sit in perfect silence.
When Bri was about 13 and he was 17 he realized she had developed a little bit of a crush on him, which made Chase very uncomfortable, so he avoided being alone with her, just to make sure not to instill false hope. As years passed she outgrew her infatuation, and they restarted that old tradition. She was 18 now, almost 19, away in college, which is why he wouldn’t throw rocks at her window tonight, like he usually would have to see if she wanted to join him.
As he had made his way up the steep incline and turned past the shrubs hiding the bench, he heard voices coming from the opposite direction. One caught his attention is particular, as it was his cousin Briar Rose’s. She must have come home for the weekend, since her college was a lot closer than his had been. Strange that she didn’t tell him.
Walking toward the sound to see whom she was talking to, as it was a male voice, but none he recognized, Chase was puzzled. Reaching his uncle’s deck he saw them on it, brightly illuminated.
A couple making out was more specifically what he saw.
Some raspy voiced, rough looking, heavily tattooed dude Chase didn’t know and little Briar Rose, who was not really little by any standard as she had inherited her parents height and towered over most other Camerons, plus she looked very much like a young woman now. A beautiful one at that. Too precious to have that nasty creature suck on her lips!
“What the … ?!” Chase ended with a curse.
“Oh shit!” Bri exclaimed nervously, jumping up, the guy slowly and calmly followed suit, eying Chase. Standing around awkwardly, Briar Rose stared at Chase like at a mirage.
“Looking for your mommy, little boy? How old is that kid, Bri? 13?” the other guy mocked.
“Leave him alone, Stryker! That’s my cousin. Relax Chasenator… okay? Can I explain this to you so you won’t jump to weird conclusions?” Bri sounded worried.
“You and … THAT?! Does your dad know? Never mind, dumb question. Course he wouldn’t. Assume he and your mommy-dragon are not home?” Chase’s facial expression reflected that she might well have been kissing a cockroach, while the other guy just smirked down at him conceitedly.
“Mom and dad are away for the weekend. Chase … please .. come on. Please! Little secret. For me!?” Briar Rose pleaded.
“Has everyone got bees in their underwear now? Not even Spring time yet and all everybody seems to have on their brain already is lip-locking and reproduction activities!” Chase huffed.
Frustrated, Chase walked off, fast, towards the other, longer route back home. Nobody came after him, luckily. He didn’t feel like a discussion.
Reflecting on his life, he wondered about him not dating even more than anyone else. Not that he expressively didn’t want to.
And no, he was not gay, that he was certain of. In college he ended up seeing a lot more of a lot of the guys there than he ever bargained for, especially when they were drunk. That most certainly did not get his juices flowing. Quite the contrary.
What did, in a way, were Emma’s sexual drive-bys when nobody was around. Not that he enjoyed her behavior per se, but it took the pressure off him and was just so much easier with her initiating it all, than him sitting there overthinking every possible thing like he had done for as long as he even started liking girls at all, until they would loose interest and moved on. With other boys, never him. Chase never even went to prom, for that exact reason.
While Emma was fun in a kinky sort of way, it also made him wonder about girls his age. Were the majority of girls like her? How do you know if they only were like this with you, or also a line of other guys, whenever the mood struck them? Open relationships were not for him.
Or were most girls more like his sister, who had fallen fast and hard for a colleague from school not long after she started there, and most definitely already heard wedding bells in the not too distant future at 20, even though she never mentioned anything about that.
Neither type of girl really appealed to Chase much. He definitely did not want to settle down young, nor have another friends with benefits kind of deal.
People often met significant others at work, like his sister had. He thought about the lab where he worked. There were exceedingly few females at all, still a very male dominated field, and the women who were there were much too old, way too married and not his type at all.
He worked long hours, being a junior scientist in the research department of a huge corporation basically meant that you were a glorified lackey to the senior staff. Between having complex tasks unloaded on you with little to no instruction, you also were the errand boy, got to go fetch coffee and do the clean up each night along with whatever else the senior staff felt above doing. That didn’t leave much time to go looking for dates, other than maybe the weekends.
Frustrated one night when he heard Kiera smuggle Logan into her room – again, then being exposed to listening to them giggle and make all sorts of noises as they did who knows what in there, Chase had enough of being single and looked at some online dating sites.
Staring at the questionnaire, he realized that he could not even begin to tell you what his type was. So he started to just jot some things down that came to mind, letting it flow, filling the page quickly.
Reading over what he had so far to see how to make that fit into the multiple choice system of the site, his smile soon changed to a grimace the moment he realized he was essentially describing his mom!
He immediately shut down his PC and played a video game instead.
No! Absolutely NO! Yuck! WTH was wrong with him!?
He loathed Logan roosting here as much as he did, as that inadvertently meant he had his face rubbed into the fact that his little sister had a steady boyfriend while Chase didn’t even have one single date on the radar.
Unfortunately for Chase, his family adored Logan, he often was invited to family dinners, barbecues and the sort. Chase didn’t dislike him per se, he was pretty fun, cool, smart, and treated Kiera well, but still. He took up so much of Kiera’s time that used to be their time, they had always been as close as a brother and sister could be, and now her attention was deflected, leaving him in the dust feeling replaced in a way.
She was only 20 now, Logan a couple years older, but Chase knew that before her 21st birthday she would probably have that dreaded ring on her finger, if not shortly afterwards. Logan even already bought property in Brindleton Bay, saving up his meager teacher’s salary to build a home, meaning Chase’s grandpa and uncle where circling the young couple like vultures, ready to get busy planning it for them.
It would only be a matter of time that Kiera would move out of the Beach House and in with Logan, which would mean they would see each other even less than now, she’d get married, probably have a new kid each year since she and Logan both just adored children and she’d forget about Chase over running after her brood. Presumably so would their parents, at least their mom would just live to be a grandma full time and usually, where mom went, dad would not be far behind. That would make for a very lonely Chase, who really did not care for kids all that much.
He still lived at home with no intend or incentive to change that, and nobody really seemed bothered by it. When it became clear Logan was here to stay, Chase had looked at a few apartments closer to work, but the thought of living alone frightened him, so he always found some hairs in the soup that he supposedly couldn’t deal with to not have to admit why he wanted to stay home.
His parents were great, supportive and had the relationship he wanted. His dad was 50 now, but neither looked nor acted it, his mom was 48 and still looked in her late 30s. It made Chase feel safe knowing they were there when he got home each night. Maybe one day he’d feel adult enough to be on his own, but right now he just needed to be in the home fold.
By now he had made it back home, quietly unlocked the door, snuck into the dark house without turning on any lights and just as quiet up the stairs to his room.
His butt had barely touched his bed when there were three knocks on the wall in a very specific rhythm.
A secret sign he and Kiera had since they were children. Their beds both used to be on the shared wall, and for many years they used to communicate like that, even had developed their own secret knock morse code.
When Chase had moved back home after college, he rearranged his room and had begged his sister to do the same, so he wouldn’t have to listen to her and Logan any more than necessary.
While their parents never forbade Logan to stay over, they did refuse to allow a larger bed in her room, so Logan wouldn’t get too comfortable, which amused Chase to no end, imagining them trying to stack up into her small teen bed. Served them right. Hopefully he often fell out onto the wooden floor breaking his butt or something, until one day he learned his lesson and would just stay at his own home overnight.
A knock on the door startled Chase, before he could answer, Kiera was standing in the doorway to his room, already in her sleepwear.
“Why didn’t you answer? I heard you come home. I am not as deaf as mom and dad!” her whispered words were slightly accusatory, as was her demeanor, arms crossed.
“Arm’s too short. Come in and close the door already! No need to be so noisy and end up summoning the parents who’d make this a family meeting to discuss my least favorite topic: me.” Chase quipped, generating a grimace from his sister, who did as requested, shut the door, came over and sat down next to her brother on his bed.
“Where’s Romeo? Recovering?” he asked, a slight undertone of bitterness in his questions.
“Sent him home. Figured you already overdosed, which is why you left. Why did you yell you weren’t gay earlier?” she asked.
“How merciful of you. Not sure I can take so much PDA between you two all the time. And why wouldn’t I yell that, it’s true.”
“I know, just seemed random, your sudden need to reaffirm it.”
“It was implied by our daddy dearest. Evidently our parents are so desperate to get me hooked up with anyone who’d have me to keep a semblance of normality, gender no longer matters. Look, nothing wrong with being gay, just not how I roll. Still like girls. On my own terms.”
“Hard to be sure. You never bring anyone home. I know there was someone at your dorm … what happened to her?”
“When mom, dad and I came up once I saw her. That one girl was undressing you with her eyes, making a meal of you the entire time. Anna or something, kinda a plain Jane …nerdy … but those are usually the worst – or best – depending on how you look at it. Am I right?”
“Emma. Yeah … Emma, she was all that and then some.”
“Ooooh … brother’s got secrets. Naughty ones.” Kiera teased giggling.
“No real secret. She and I were kinda friends with benefits, she was 4 years older, the day she graduated she dumped me and I haven’t seen her since. The end.”
“Not really. I wasn’t in love or anything … it’s all good. She wasn’t even my type and after she moved out, studying got a lot more productive for me without her interruptions. Just not the kind of story you tell at family dinners. Or ever, if I can help it.”
“No wonder you are confused. Your first time was supposed to be real special, romantic, memorable, not some mutually beneficial nookie-transaction to take the edge off in between study sessions.”
“When you put it like that … but I’ll say that, it was memorable, all right. Are you and I supposed to talk about stuff like this?”
“Why not? I trust you, you trust me and we definitely do not have any ulterior motives with each other. Plus, nobody will be more honest with you while still wanting the best for you.” Kiera winked at her older brother.
“You are still my little sister and I am supposed to help you, not the other way around. And don’t forget we’re Camerons. After all the rumors you hear sometimes I wouldn’t completely rule out that incest ever happened long before us … or maybe not, who can say for sure … but just think about Bri … ” the last part was Chase’s joking attempt to change the subject.
“Since when are you one for rumors? And Bri just thought you were dreamy, that’s all. She would never have acted on it. I mean, even I can admit you are cute. Doesn’t mean I want to date you. But it does mean that I really don’t get why you are single. All my friends had crushes on you growing up. I just had my crew under control and told them no way, Jose, now looking back, maybe I should have let them loose on you.” Kiera giggled again.
“Uh … that’s okay. I know I don’t got game, but I also don’t think I need my little sister’s high school entourage sicced on me.”
“Too late now, they’re all in relationships anyway. Although Lyriq maybe …”
“Ki! No blind dates for me! Not with anyone, but least of all with any of your friends. And definitely not with a girl named after what dad makes his living with.” Chase referred jokingly to their father’s profession as a music writer & producer.
“So picky!” she teased.
“Only the best for me. Which translates to well out of my league, which in turn explains why I am single and probably always will be. Gah!” he quipped back.
“We both know that’s a pile of steaming horse manure. Seriously now, what’s your type?”
“You don’t want to know …” Chase frowned.
“I do! Tell! Or do I have to tickle it out of you?!” she threatened.
“No, please, we are definitely too old for that. I don’t know. Hard to describe what I want, you know, put the vision and the feelings into words.” Chase looked and sounded tortured.
“Give it your best shot. Still struggling to read that mind of yours after all those years. Just say words that come to mind, I’ll filter it out for myself.”
“I am gonna sound like some weirdo creep!” Chase sounded genuinely uncomfortable.
“You always sound like that, because you are a mad scientist, who is also some celebrated and decorated sports jock, which already makes zero sense. So, share.”
“Okay, I think I’d like a girl to be like … you know .. well groomed, but casual and not stuck up, not the hours in front of a mirror type. A sense of humor with a sense of when to be serious, her own person, but loyal, though not clingy – ugh, I hate clingy chicks! A little domestic, but not a Suzie Homemaker. Has to be smart, I need to be able to talk to her without remembering to use little words all the time. Someone who wants a career, but still has time for you. Someone you can count on, independent, but not aloof, someone who really loves you for you, not for titles, money in the bank, status symbols … ”
“Ummm … you do realize that sounds like mom and dad, right!”
“I am gonna throw that out there since we are both thinking it: Yikes!”
“Maybe I can still help, I don’t think you are beyond hope if you are willing to leave a few of those points unchecked if the rest works out. We could go out and I could be your wing girl, you start picking by looks that appeal to you and we go from there, filtering through the eligible bachelorettes of the region. I could probably even make the initial contact for you if … ”
“Pass. Definitely not going potential mate-hunting with my little sister!”
“I can live with that.”
After they said goodnight, Chase got ready for bed but couldn’t find any sleep, thinking about girls, dating, romantic moments, things that people his age did other than just work and hang with family … yeah, he’d like that in his life too.
Maybe he should go out and see what happens. Next weekend. Maybe the one after that … or a few weekends out to make sure his mind was in the right place. Or some weekend after that. Or maybe wait until Spring came and the days got longer again and it was warmer … or wasn’t Summer better … ?