Stay Close(6)

By: Alexa Riley

“And the sky is blue.” I roll over and pull the pillow off my head, looking at my alarm clock. The damn thing hasn’t even gone off yet. She’s always hungry. “What the flip, Pan? It’s not even time to get up.” I throw the pillow at her. She catches it easily and tosses it back on the bed.

“I gotta go in early. Forgot to finish up my paper for art history, and I need those stupid books in the library.”

This isn’t shocking. Pandora hates homework. If she could skate by on tests she would be golden. This year we didn’t get any of the same classes, so she doesn’t have me reminding her about what’s due anymore.

“What do you want?” I ask, pulling myself from the bed.

“Bacon and pancakes,” I hear her say from behind me. “Oh, and scrambled eggs with—”

“I know how you like your eggs,” I tell her, cutting her off. I’ve been making this family breakfast almost every morning since I was old enough to be in the kitchen alone.

“You rock!” she yells, running from my room to get ready.

I make my way to the kitchen and start breakfast, and I work on packing everyone’s lunch at the same time. Today I make tomato turkey sandwiches with a sweet glaze on slices of fresh bread.

“Sweetheart,” my dad greets me, coming into the kitchen and placing a kiss on top of my head.

“Hey, Dad. Bacon and pancakes today,” I tell him, handing him a plate.

He gives me another kiss on the head before sitting down at the breakfast bar and digging in. My mom walks in the kitchen a few minutes later, and my dad is on his feet, pulling her chair out for her then giving her a deep kiss. I roll my eyes but smile as I go back to packing everyone lunches.

My parents can be a little too PDA for me at times, but I wouldn’t want them any other way. My dad and mom were made for each other, and I hope one day I find that, too. An image of Ivan from the night before flutters through my mind, as do some of the dreams I’d had about him. My cheeks start to heat as I remember them, particularly the one of him kissing me over and over again. And the one where I trace his tattoos, though the images of that one are fuzzy, which means I might need to get a better look at them.

I’m thankful I’m not facing my parents so they can’t see the blush lighting up my face.

“Lock it up.”

I jump, not realizing Pandora walked into the room. She’s eating a piece of bacon while her eyes narrow on me.

“Don’t you have somewhere to be?” I glare back at her, handing her a to-go plate she can eat in the car on her way to school.

“I’m watching you,” she mouths, and I have to bite back my retort: so what’s new? She takes the plate from me before going over to my parents and telling them goodbye. She throws her hand up in a wave on the way out.

“Did she forget to finish something?” my mom asks me, and I nod.

Dad chuckles. They can’t really get mad at her. She might not like school, but she’s always pulled straight A’s. We both do, even at one of the toughest private schools in the country.

Since we’re both great in school and don’t give them too much grief, our parents are pretty good about giving us free rein as long as we keep a guard with us. Rules loosened up a lot since we turned eighteen. And then when Pandora punched Ethan, a boy at prom who tried to kiss me, that gained us some more freedom. I cringe at the memory.

I bet Ivan could take a punch and not even care. He doesn’t seem like he would run scared after like Ethan did. He was a nice enough boy, but I wasn’t ready for how handsy he was getting, and Pandora knew right away. Then I start to wonder what it would be like if it were Ivan making the same moves...

“We’ll be a little late tonight, honey,” Mom says, shaking me out of my fantasy. She comes around and puts her dish in the sink. “Thank you for breakfast.”

“Will you be home in time for dinner?”

“Don’t you have finals to study for?” she asks as my dad comes to stand behind her. He wraps an arm around her, and she melts into him.

“Yeah, but cooking always helps me relax,” I remind her. I know they always feel a little guilty that I cook for everyone, but I love it. It’s one of my favorite things to do. That’s why Pandora knew I would get out of bed this morning to make her something to eat.

“You know I can’t turn down your cooking.” Mom leans in and gives me another kiss. “Do me a favor, Penelope, and don’t be hard on the new guy.” She levels me with a stare.

“Who, me?” I bat my lashes, which makes my dad laugh.

“I wonder where she got this thing for ditching her guards,” Dad says right before Mom elbows him. My dad fakes like he’s hurt. “You’re going to kiss that later.”

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