Ronnie was about to speak but Sophie slapped a hand over his mouth, and putting a finger to her own lips, mouthed, “Shh...Don't say a word, just listen.”
But there was nothing to hear. Simon and Cassandra were still kissing and it sure didn't seem they were likely to stop any time soon. Sophie grabbed Ronnie's hand and tugged him toward the stairs, away from the family room. They had a silent argument-- done with only hand gestures and menacing looks-- which went something like this:
“Let's go up to my room.”
“So we can talk.”
“I'll show you when we get up there.”
“But what about Cassie?”
“She of all people deserves some fun.”
“Yeah, but with Simon?”
“Just come on!”
Ronnie took one last glance in the family room and after shaking his head at the sudden and complete change coming over his normally stoic and sensible brother, he followed Sophie up the stairs, knowing full well, no good could come from this.
When they entered her room closing the door behind them, Sophie fell back onto her bed and burst out laughing.
“What the hell do you think is so funny?” Ronnie asked, staring at her as if watching a lunatic coming unglued.
“Oh, my... God! This ...is too... perfect!” she said, between bouts of laughter.
“Seriously? My brother loses his mind and that to you is perfect?” he said. “Did you hear him? He asked her to marry him!”
“I know!” she said laughing until her sides hurt.
“We gotta stop them!”
“Oh, please...why in the world would you do that?”
“Cuz...cuz... cuz...it's crazy!” he said pacing around her room. “They like...they don't even know each other. He's in medical school and she's...her father will kill him! What is he thinking?”
“Oh, relax,” Sophie said, sitting up and grabbing her teddy bear hugging it to herself, still giggling. “I'm sure he wasn't serious. It was clearly a joke.”
Ronnie stared at her frowning. He wanted to believe that, but something told him it wasn't.
“Come sit with me, Ronnie,” she said, as she got herself together and stopped the maniacal laughing. “I want to talk to you.”
He stayed where he was, acutely aware of himself, of her and their unspoken, yet palpable feelings, and that they were alone together in her cozy little room with her comfy looking bed right there as if begging to be used. Yup, he ought to keep his distance...for sanity's sake if nothing else.
“So...go ahead and talk.”
She gave him an exasperated look and grabbed his hand, pulling him onto the bed beside her. “Honestly, you act as if you're afraid of me sometimes.”
It wasn't an act. He was terrified, but he wasn't about to admit it to her. “You shoulda let me stop them. We should get back downstairs and....”
“No! I told ya, Cassie needs this. She never has any fun, but forget about them for a minute, okay? I need to ask you something...very serious. I have a huge favor to ask you,” Sophie said, all traces of amusement out of her expression.
“What?” he asked, surprised and bewildered. “What do you want me to do?”
She still held his hand and now she squeezed it with both of hers, nervously biting her bottom lip. “Ronnie, I've given this a lot of thought and...I want...I want you ...I want you to...to be...to be my first.”
He made a face and shook his head slightly. “First what?”
She just stared at him, her eyebrows lifted, waiting for him to catch on, but the light bulb stayed unlit. “My first time,” she said carefully and slowly, giving him another significant look.
This time he frowned. “First time with what?”
She rolled her eyes. “Sex! I want you to be the first to have sex with me.”
For a full minute he gaped at her, then sprung off the bed as if it were on fire. “You nuts?” he shouted.
“Listen to me, please, Ronnie,” she said making to grab his hand again, but he pulled back as if she were a poisonous viper.
“What the hell is going on in this house?” he mumbled to himself, running his fingers through his hair, looking somewhat maniacal himself now. “First Simon with Cassie and now you? What the hell was in that quiche?”
“Nothing! There's nothing going on and the craziest thing my mother would ever put in a quiche is asperagus. Come sit down and listen to me.”
“I can hear fine from here,” he said crossing his arms over his broad chest, his backside hitting her dresser.
She sighed. “Fine, have it your way.”
He waited, but when she only stared up at him with those enormous blue mountain-lake eyes which looked dangerously close to overflowing their banks, he snapped. “What??? Are ya gonna tell me or what?”
“I'm really freaked out, Ronnie,” she whispered.
“About what? Simon and Cassie?”
She derisively shook her head. “God, no! They have nothing to do with this...not really. It's this Antoine thing.”
“What about him?” he said, angrily. “I doubt he's even in jail. You know his dad is well connected so, your boyfriend won't...”
“He's not my boyfriend!” she said through clenched teeth. “And that's more to my point. I think he's gonna get away with this and whatever else he's done, and...even if I don't want to think about it, I don't think he's done trying to get at me.”
“He wouldn't dare!” Ronnie said. “I'll kill him first!”
“Ronnie, please, I'm scared,” she said, reaching out her hand to him. This time he took it and sat down beside her.
“But you don't have to be,” he assured her. “We'll...we'll never let you out of our sight. We'll get a restraining order on him. We'll...”
She scoffed. “Yeah, and how many brutalized, beaten and very dead woman have restraining orders that do them no good?”
“I'll protect you myself then. Is that what you meant instead of.... Geeze, gotta get my hearing checked. I coulda sworn you said...”
“I did,” she said. “Listen, this Antoine thing...well, it's not the first time that I nearly...very nearly got raped.”
“Holy crap! When? You mean when you were at school with him? And you still didn't get it?”
“No, not with Antoine. Matter of fact, he kinda saved me the first time from...well, we were at a club in Daytona and...I don't usually have trouble cuz the guys...Rick especially, is huge, I mean even bigger than you if you can imagine.”
“Rick your boyfriend?” Ronnie asked.
She shook her head. “He's in the band....plays base. He's awesome, but not a boyfriend. But anyway, we were done with our last set and the guys were packing up the van and...I went back inside for...I dunno, don't remember what, but they were waiting for this chance and... they cornered me and...”
“The guys in your band?”
She shook her head. “No! I'm not making sense, sorry. There were some guys, really loud and obnoxious and drunk and...they were heckling us...me mostly, I guess and they...they grabbed me and pushed me into some back room and...”
“Oh, my God!” Ronnie said, putting his arm around her. He could feel her shaking. “What happened? No, I don't want to know!”
“They didn't get a chance to do anything, thank God. Antoine got there just in time, came outta nowhere, cuz I didn't even know he was there . I mean we were in Daytona! What the hell was he doing there all the way from Miami? But anyway, Antoine wasn't gonna stand a chance of stopping all three of those jerks—or four, I don't remember now. Rick, Danny and Bug showed up looking for me and it was a brawl even before Elian and John came in to it, too. Elian nearly lost a tooth, Antoine got punched so hard he fell back against something and blacked out and John got a black eye and Bug... oh, it was a mess and it was all my fault!”
“How the hell do you figure that?” Ronnie said.
“I dunno...” she said moving closer to him, resting her head on his shoulder, taking in a deep, calming breath.
“Laying it on pretty thick, isn't she?” Heidi said, disapprovingly.
“No, she's not,” Richard said, grimly watching his daughter. “It was pretty much as she said. She was terrified for a long time after that. She's leaving out the part about that Bug kid nearly getting kidnapped, though.”
“Kidnapped!” Heidi shrieked.
“I'll tell ya about that later,” he said. “I'm more interested in what the hell she's thinking. Her first time...with your grandson? Without even...I thought we raised her better than that!”
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