Day 3-

I woke up an hour earlier than I would usually wake up. Because of that, I decided to just lay in bed and stare at the ceiling for an hour, with my thoughts occupying my mind. Of course it was Brandon that I was mostly thinking about, although I did occasionally think of Katie, Will, and so on. Still it always came back to Brandon, and when it did, I would think about him a lot longer than I did the other topics.

What I mostly did was replay the scene at the park yesterday in my mind. I kept remembering how he said his family and him would go to the park a lot, before they found out about his brother's sickness. For some reason this made me feel envious. He was lucky, I mean the part about him being able to have a nice memory of his family not about his brother having cancer. I was envious of the fact that he was lucky enough to be able to have a nice memory of his family spending time together.. Spending time with your family... That was what I've been wanting for a very long time, but now...

I didn't want to think about it anymore. Instead I thought more about Brandon and his family situation. Quickly my envy turned to sympathy for Brandon. I began to think about how hard it must be on his family now that his brother has cancer.. Just remembering the painful look in his eyes- that was something that had etched itself into my memory. I suddenly felt stupid for not being able to say anything helpful to him or anything to make him feel better yesterday. I had the chance, but what did I do? I acted like an idiot!

My thoughts and feelings were now beginning to mix themselves together, this combination was making me feel confuse and all strange inside. Damn. I should have gone back to sleep, I thought.

Getting frustrated with myself, I growled and abruptly sat up in my bed. I brought my hands up to cover my face and began to breathe in deeply in order to clear my mind.

A minute or so passed and I was able to feel a little normal again. I reached over towards my alarm clock and shut it off before it would start sounding, which would happen in about five more minutes. After that I got out of my bed and headed for the bathroom.

Within minutes I was walking down the stairs. I could hear my mother talking away on the phone far off into the kitchen. I could hear my father rustle his morning paper and take sips from his coffee. As I finally made it down the steps, I saw only my father sitting at the table. I took a seat beside him and didn't bother to say good morning for I didn't feel cheery. Besides it wasn't like he was going to say it back anyway.

My mother's head suddenly popped out from the doorway of the kitchen and she was holding a phone to her ear. Her eyes landed on me and she said, " Haley, remember to pick up your cousin Harold after school for the party."

" Oh right," I said now remembering that today was my Cousin Harold's 4th birthday. We were celebrating it at my house today for it was big enough for all the guests my aunt and mother wanted to invite.

My mother had turned back to the conversation on the phone and her head had disappeared into the kitchen again. I was left alone with my father in silence, which lasted for about ten minutes. It was I who broke the uncomfortable silence by asking, " So dad, how's work?" I guess I just wanted a conversation with him, even if it was about something as boring as his work.

My father glanced at me then back at his paper. " It's fine." He didn't say anything more. I decided to try again by asking him, " Was the banquet enjoyable?"

" No," came one of his short answers.

" Was the food at least good?"

" It was fine."

" Was your boss there?"

" Yes."

"Was there any entertainment?"

" No."

"Met anyone new?"

" No."


I kept shooting questions at him for another minute until finally my father gave me a stern look and asked, " Why are you asking such silly questions?"

I swallowed. " I- I just wanted to-..." I couldn't find a reasonable answer to give him.

" Be a lady and eat your breakfast quietly like all ladies do," he ordered strictly. He returned to his paper without saying anything more.

Just looking at him right then and there, I grew angry. Why is someone like Brandon able to have memories of family moments while I can't even have one! I thought this as I stared at my father. Does dad even care at all? Does he even know that I am so desperately trying to reach for him? That I just want to be able to feel like I have a family and an actual dad?

"Dad!" I cried out, " Can't you for once just not read the damn paper and have a conversation with your daughter?"

" How dare you speak to me in that tone," my father said as he slammed it onto the table. He looked at me and said, " I am your father and you shall speak to me with some respect!"

I said nothing but just stood up abruptly, almost knocking my seat over. Quietly I asked him, "How can you ignore me after all these years? I mean were you always like this?"

He doesn't look at me. Instead he looked at his plate, taking a bite out of his sausage. " Sit down Haley," he ordered. I was about to protest but I bit my tongue and just sat back down. When I did my father looked at me and said, " Now tell me what has gotten you into such a inappropriate behavior this morning."

I took a deep breath and began," Dad, I'm- I'm just sick of this. I mean we never talk and we never spend time together. All you do is work, work, and work. And all I can do to make you the slightest bit proud of me is to study, study, and study. Yesterday, my friend told me how he and his family spent time together.. Now he doesn't have much time to spend with his little brother. I mean all I can think of is here we are, all of us taking everything for granted. Especially you dad. We can't even have a conversation during breakfast while this guy is praying for more conversations with his brother who by the way has cancer!" I was amazed at myself for revealing this much to my father, and now I waited to see what he would say.

His reaction was far from what I expected. My father just laughed. How could he laugh at that? I thought as I watch him return to his food. " Oh is that all?" He said between bites, " I thought something was wrong with school." He shook his head and chuckle to himself, but didn't say anything more.

" Dad!" I shouted, this time more frustrated than I was before. " You just don't get it do you? God! I try telling you what the hell is wrong and all you can do is worry about my school work instead of what really is important!" I stood up, not bothering to care that my seat actually fell over this time.

" Haley," my father growled, this time he was getting really irritated. " Stop it right now! You are being childish this morning! And I do not approve of the manner in which you are speaking to me. Be more respectful to your father!"

" Respect! That is all you really care about. You just care only about the way I speak to you, not what I am speaking to you about!" I was ready to set off, ready to just yell and cry and all of the drama. But instead, I felt a tug in my heart, and I just couldn't. So instead I muttered, "You know what? Forget it." Without saying anything more I grabbed my schoolbooks along with my backpack and rushed out the door, slamming it loudly behind me.

I walked hastily to the bus stop, cursing loudly. When the bus came I had finally stopped saying all the cuss words in the book, but I was now scowling.

Sitting on the bus, the chattering of the other kids filled my ears. Slowly, though, their voices ceased to exist, as I became more and more sucked into my thoughts. Alone in my own mind, I kept thinking of what happened between my father and I.

God, I am such an idiot! I thought. Now my father is just going to punish me tonight. Damn Brandon! I began wishing I had never walked into the park and saw him and talked to him. Because of him, I just had to open my damn mouth and yell at my father! But-but..

But god, there was this sense of relief that I was feeling because of the fact that I had finally gotten a chance to say most of the things I wanted to say to my dad. Yet, at the same time I felt so foolish for thinking I could ever change our relationship. I mean, what exactly was I hoping to happen after I had yelled at my father, saying all the things I wished to say a long time ago? And did it even matter now?

I was so wrapped up in my thoughts that I didn't even realize I had tears on my cheeks or that Brandon was sitting beside me. I only realized this when suddenly I felt a hand touch my cheek, wiping away the tears. I turned my head to the side and saw Brandon, who offered me a small smile as he used his thump to dry my cheeks.

The anger I felt towards him immediately evaporated and now all I was feeling was the wild beatings of my heart. The touch of his hand was so soft and so warm and so comforting that all of my pain and thoughts disappeared along with the anger I had. I have now found myself staring into Brandon's crystal blue eyes, while becoming aware at how close we were sitting to each other.

" Hi," I whispered to him. It was the only word that formed in my mind that was able to make it out of my mouth.

" Hey," he said back. He continued wiping the tears away. " Are you all right?" He asked as his eyes were filling up with concern.

" Yeah," I said. I gave a small laugh. " I'm sorry. I was just... I had a fight with my father that's all."

Brandon stopped wiping my face and had pulled back his hand. Disappointment washed through me when he did that.

" What were you fighting about?" He asked, moving a little to the side, and I knew that he did that to put a little distance between us.

At first I was reluctant to say anything because then I would have to tell him about his part in the whole thing, which I didn't want. But as I began to tell him bits and pieces of what happened, I found myself not being able to stop. So I kept talking, and as I did that I noticed how he was listening to me and how he was focusing all his attention towards me. I also saw how his eyes revealed so little of his emotions but at the same time revealing so much other things that I can't begin to make out. I was also realizing how much I was basking in his attention.

When I was done telling him everything, the bus had arrived to our school. Brandon and I got up and were still talking as we walked down the steps of the bus. We stopped and stood outside in front of the bus.

" I'm sorry," he said after I became silent. He really did look sorry. " I didn't mean to cause you and your father problems, it's just-..."

" It's all right," I quickly assured him before he could finish what he was about to say. " In fact I should really be thanking you. I never realize all the problems I have with my family until you began talking to me. So... Thank you Brandon." I smiled.

Brandon took a deep breath and said, "Still, I want to say that the reason I told you all those things was because you're easy to open up to."

"Really?" I asked, surprised yet touched by what he said. He didn't answer but instead pointed to the school building and said; " We should get going." We resumed walking again.

We drew ourselves into silence and this silence was in a way comforting. I was even enjoying it a little, but there was a question in the back of my mind that I just had to ask.

" Brandon.."

" Yeah?"

" Yesterday, your friends Alex and Craig... They went up to me and told me something about you getting hurt before. Don't tell them I told you this, because I don't think they want you to know about it. But, they said something about you getting played before. I was hoping to know what's that all about." I gave a side-glance towards Brandon, hoping he won't get mad or anything.

Brandon didn't say anything until we were inside the building, standing in the middle of the already crowded hallway. He had this sad look on, with far away eyes to tell that he was remembering something in one of his many memories. Finally he broke the silence and said, " Don't worry, I won't tell them you told me this. I apologize that they even went up to you and said that. It's just.." He sighed before he continued, " I had a very difficult past and they just want to make sure I won't get hurt or anything because of what happened to me before. Don't take it personally."

I nodded. " I won't.. But... What did happen in your past?" I hope I was not crossing a line.

Brandon ignored my question. He just glanced at his watch and then back at me. " Sorry Haley, but we better get our books before the bell rings or we'll be late for class." He was off before I could say anything.

Why couldn't he tell me what was wrong? I thought over and over again as I walked to my locker. When I arrived Katie was there, biting on a strand of her hair, her mind obviously somewhere else. Lucy was also standing there with a little pout on her face.

"Hey," I greeted them. I threw a concerned look to Katie, for something was bothering her badly, I could tell. " What's wrong Katie?" I asked.

She shook her head. " Nothing," she muttered. She glanced quickly at Lucy then back at me. I immediately understood that she just didn't' want to tell me since Lucy was around.

So instead I turned to Lucy and asked, " Why do you look sad?"

Lucy sighed dramatically. " It's just... Brandon is so damn distant! I mean I tried to make him open up to me yesterday at lunch when we were working on our project. But he just kept returning to the work instead of starting an actual conversation."

Deep down I was rejoicing because of the news, but on the outside I tried to look like I felt Lucy's pain. " Oh.." I said, " That's too bad."

I felt Katie looking at me and knew that she knew I was pretending. I ignored her raised eyebrow and concentrated on Lucy." Well, I guess he's just like that then."

Lucy shook her head and suddenly brightened up. She said, " That's all right. I promise that in 2 more days I can get him to open up. Who knows? He might just end up being mine." She winked at me.

The statement however does not sit well with me. I forced a small smile and asked, " When are you guys meeting again?"

" Today during lunch, and all day tomorrow." Lucy told me excitedly. " God, I just can't get over how hot he is!" She chatters a little more about how cute Brandon was, which annoyed Katie and I more and more.

We were so happy when she finally said, " Well, I better get going." We watched until she turned the corner and then turned our attention to each other.

" She is such a bimbo," Katie exclaimed. " I hate her! I mean does the girl ever talk about anything besides how cute Brandon is? Why do we even bother with her?"

" Because," I explained, trying to sound reasonable, " she was our good friend back in the days when she wasn't a bimbo. It's the high school atmosphere that must have changed her."

" Whatever," Katie muttered, " I am too messed up to think about anything right now."

" What's wrong?" I asked as I opened my locker. " Andy again?"

Katie leaned against the locker beside mine and began to bang her head against it. "I am such an idiot!" She moaned. "That stupid Andy!"

I gave her a side-glance. " What happened?"

" Okay, remember yesterday how Andy and I were researching our project? Well, we were talking and for the first time he actually seemed..." She tired to search for a word to fit her sentence.

"Nice? Normal?" I suggested.

" Yes!" Katie cried, " That!"

I closed my locker door and laughed. "Well, he was always like that. It's just you were too annoyed by him to see his true colors."

We began to walk to our class, Katie doing most of the talking. " It was weird. I mean I sat there and he sat there, and I just started to get this feeling and... I don't know! It's just really freaking me out!"

I was smiling now; doing my best to not just burst out and laugh. " What? You like him?"

Katie slapped me against the head and cried, " Hell no! Don't say something so scary! I do not like him.. I just think he might actually be human instead of an annoying freak from another planet."

" Well, I guess that's a step up," I muttered, rubbing my head. We were now standing next to our classroom door, and before entering I caught a glimpse of Andy who had just turned a corner, now coming towards us. I pointed to him with my chin and my smile grew wider. " There he is now."

Katie looked over her shoulder and saw him. She groaned loudly and exclaimed, " Damn it!" She immediately went into the classroom. I stood where I was, laughing as Andy arrived.

" What's so funny?" He asked as he scratched his head.

I muttered, " Nothing..." But I continued laughing anyway. Andy shot me one of those, You're weird, but okay.., look and just went into the classroom. I followed after him.

During class Katie kept throwing Andy a nervous glance, and a few glares towards me because I was giggling most of the time. Andy just stared at Katie admiringly, but would sometimes shift his gaze towards me, and would lift an eyebrow in confusion because of Katie's glares and my giggles. I just tried my best to keep my eyes to the front, but my smile continued to grow wider every second.

When class ended, Katie rushed off quickly to her next class, Andy trailing right behind her for he too had the same class as her. I was left behind, taking my time to gather all my things. Once out the door, I headed for my locker but stopped about halfway when I saw Lucy and Brandon.

Both of them were standing beside Brandon's locker, laughing about something. I moved towards the side, trying to keep out of their view, but making sure they weren't out of mine. I watch as Brandon say something to Lucy, and was surprised at myself when I felt a sudden rage as Lucy placed a hand onto Brandon's shoulder. I bitterly noticed how Brandon did not mind the touch.

I waited for a minute, watching them silently. Finally I realized I was acting like a stalker and a little bit nutty, that I shook my head and finally resume walking towards my locker. I kept my eyes down, trying hard not to let my gaze wander back to Lucy and Brandon. I hurried and took my books out and closed my locker. I was surprised to see Will standing right beside me suddenly.

" God!" I cried when I saw him. " You scared the hell out of me!"

Will flash me a lopsided grin and chuckled, " Sorry."

He was wearing a leather jacket over a beige sweater with dark jeans. I couldn't help but notice how cute he looked.

I cleared my throat and asked him, " What are you doing here? I thought we weren't to meet up until lunch."

" Oh I know that," he said. " I just want to walk you to your class."

I raised both my eyebrows. " Really?" I said before I allowed myself to smile a little.

"Really," he said back. He offered me his arm. " Shall we go mademoiselle?" He said that with a French accent.

Suddenly finding myself in a playful mood, I took his arm and said, " We shall." I began to laugh and he did too.

Off we went to my class; keeping up the charade until the bell finally rang.

Classes dragged by slowly and I just kept wishing for lunch to come. All morning my thoughts drifted to Will and the little act we put on. I couldn't help but kept smiling as I thought of him.

I was in my last class before lunch. During the class, I kept looking towards the clocks, waiting for the hands to reach twelve. Finally when the bell rang, I quickly got up and was prepared to bolt out of the door. Unfortunately my teacher called me back to speak to me about an essay I wrote for the class.

After ten minutes of talking about how good my essay was and how I could make it even better, the teacher finally dismissed me. I was out the door in a second and I hurried to my locker. When I arrived to my locker, there was Will, leaning against the locker door with his arms crossed.

" Will!" I cried in surprise. " I am so sorry I'm late. The teacher just..."

" Hey," Will said, " it's okay. You don't have to explain." He straightened up and uncrossed his arms, his mouth drawn up in a smile. " I don't mind waiting for you." He said this in a flirty tone, jokingly indicating something romantic.

I laughed out loud and walked over to him and slapped his chest. " Very funny sly guy... Don't you try and charm me 'cause it isn't gonna work."

A moment later after I put my things away, we both headed towards the lunch court. When we got there, I saw the crowded cafeteria and I muttered, " Damn!"

Since I was late, all the tables were filled up students and there seemed to be no seats left.

" Hey, there's a few seats over there," Will said as he nudged me with his elbow. I looked up at him and followed his gaze. He was right, there were seats left but when I saw who was also sitting at the table, I began to feel dread.

There sitting at the table was Lucy and Brandon.

" Um.." I muttered as I tried to find an excuse. " How about we go outside instead? It's a little stuffy in here and it would be much better if we get some air, don't you think?"

Will shook his head and exclaimed, " It is freezing outside! Anyway we sort of need the table so I can write. Come on.." He began to pull my sleeve and pulled me towards the table.

" Will!" I cried, but that was all that could escape my mouth for I could not find a good enough reason to sit elsewhere. Besides, it was too late for we had finally reached the table.

I found myself noticing, with a little jealousy, that Lucy and Brandon were laughing, and Brandon seemed to be enjoying her company now. I could also tell that Lucy was using her flirting methods for she kept flipping her hair over her shoulders as she laughed, and placed a hand on his arm. Brandon seemed to be responding to it. I found myself hating the fact that I was jealous, and reminded myself that I only saw Brandon as a friend. I also felt like I was intruding on them.

Will, however, didn't notice that we were intruding on them because he just sat right down and cheerfully said, " Hey!"

Brandon was still recovering from a laughing fit, but Lucy laughter had left her completely. Lucy glanced at both Will and I, and I could tell she did not like our intrusion.

" Hi," she said a bit icily. How is it that she was able to sound mean yet sweet at the same time? I mean how can it be that girls can notice the tone of voice, while the guys don't notice a thing? I thought as I saw Brandon and Will not noticing how Lucy sounded.

" Hey," Brandon said too, but much more warmly. He glanced at me, but I ignored it and just sat down.

" So, what are you two doing here?" Lucy asked. Her tone carried something, but I could not tell what.

I quickly explained, " Oh, I'm just helping Will with his paper that is due on Friday."

" Oh." Brandon nodded to show he understood while Lucy still cast me a cold glare.

" Um, I'm sorry if we are bothering you," I said, mostly to Lucy. I began to felt uncomfortable under her stare.

" No it's okay," Brandon assured me.

Lucy nodded in agreement. "Yes," she said. " It's no problem at all." I could tell she was lying.

There was an uncomfortable silence between the four of us for a minute until finally Will said, " Well, Haley come on, let's get to work."

We spent the whole lunch period working silently, occasionally whispering to one another. Will have now gotten the clue that Lucy wasn't enjoying our company. Still, I couldn't help but sneak a few glances towards Brandon and when I don't look his way, I could feel him look towards my way.

The bell rang and we all got up, grabbing our books and things. Brandon looked at me and said, " Let's walk to class together." I just nodded even though I could feel Lucy glare at me a little. I looked at Will to see if he was walking with us too, but he said, " I have to grab something from my locker. You guys go on ahead."

I walked as fast as I could out of the cafeteria, wanting to get away from Lucy's icy glare that I didn't even realize I was leaving Brandon behind. I heard footsteps pounding behind me and Brandon's easy breathing.

" Walk slower will you?" He said with a little chuckle. " We won't be late."

I felt myself grow a little red as I slow down my pace. Soon Brandon was walking in step with me.

" So," he said, getting into his talkative mood he had had in the morning once again. " You're helping Will with his essay huh?"

" Yeah I guess I am," I muttered. " So how is your project going?" I asked changing the subject.

" Oh it's great," he said. " Lucy has great ideas for it. It's good to start getting to know people around you. Lucy really surprised me. I mean before I thought she was... I don't know, but I just know that she is completely different from what she seems to be."

" Really?" I asked with a little edge to my voice. I silently slapped myself for sounding like that. I mean he wasn't my boyfriend or anything, so I had no right to be jealous. " I guess Lucy is the type full of surprises."

"Yeah.." Was all he said.

We finally arrived to our class, and I sat down all flustered as Brandon made his way to the back to put his letter on the table. Then he sat down, and I was very aware of his glances towards me. A minute later Will came in and he too went to the back of the class to put his letter down. When he passed my seat to get to his, he patted me on the head like I was a little kid. I smiled a little.

Like routine, I waited about 10 minutes when all letters were set down onto the table; I got up and went to search for mine. I searched for the heading ' Dear Wanderer' from Answerer. I found it, and began to read it as I walked back to my table. It went:

Dear Wanderer,

After reading your letter, I have finally decided something. This whole letter-exchanging thing is for us to all get to know each other better. I made some observations about you and you have some about me. Lets just say that's enough for us to present to the class when it comes time for us to do so. Now lets get to the topic I really want to talk about.. Life.

One question has been on my mind lately. And that question is how can you tell if love is really love? I've spent my life trying to find the answer to this question but always ending up with no answer. I guess there is a reason to why I am asking such a question. I don't feel right to give away all my secrets but I will tell you that I thought I loved someone long ago, but I ended up getting crush. Now I find myself falling in love, if it really is love, all over again.

There's this girl I barely know until now. She's this girl who is helping me, in fact saving me. In a way she inspires me, and though she doesn't notice what she is really doing to me, she is my hero. I act like how I act around everyone, but there are times when I am near her, that I act a little differently, but maybe not that differently for she doesn't seem to really notice any change in me..

Okay, I will stop with this. So I ask you to please answer this question, how can you tell if love is love? So Wanderer know that I ask you this question with hopes that I won't be made fun of. Waiting for your reply...

Yours Truly,

I spent about 5 minutes rereading this letter over and over again, making sure I had read it correctly. And each time I finished it, I go into a state of shock. Was this the person who wrote that witty letter yesterday? The letter I had found insulting? Was this the person who now wrote this deep letter and is asking for my advice?

The personality I had in my mind of the writer has now changed completely. But what surprises me even more was the one name that came into my mind to who wrote this letter...


As soon as that thought entered my mind, it quickly disappeared. 'No,' I scolded myself, 'it isn't him. Stop thinking that!' Still, I felt a little hope that it was he, but then again why is it that I am hoping that? I mean even if it was Brandon who is writing the letters, it's not like I hope to be the girl he likes... Right?

I glanced at the clock and saw I have spent most of the period holding on to the letter. Quickly I took out a piece of paper and began to write.

Dear Answerer,

What can I say except that I am surprise? I admit that I have actually been expecting a letter of apology from you or at least another remark or observation from you about my last letter. Instead you surprised me by asking a question, a very deep one, instead. Why would I be surprise? Is probably one question you might have. Well, it is because was it not you who said that you don't want the questions, but you just want all the answers?

I guess this girl is something if she is making you ask such a deep question. So I'll do my best to answer your question:

How can you tell if love is really love?

My answer:

You can tell simply by seeing how much this girl did for you. I myself have never fallen in love so I don't really know but-

I stopped writing. How do I continue? I don't even know the answer to this, so maybe I should just write that he should ask this to someone else. But I sort of don't want to. I mean this guy trusted me, a stranger, with a personal question, and I don't want to end up disappointing him.

So I just sat there for a minute, staring at my half finished letter, wondering what I can write to help this Answerer with his dilemma. My eyes soon wandered from my paper to Will. I saw Will scratching his head, yawning, and playing with his lead pencil. He must have felt my eyes on him for he turned to my direction and saw me looking at him. He smiled and gave me a playful wink. I smiled back and immediately returned my gaze back to my paper while feeling the heat on my cheeks.

Slowly though, my eyes wandered again and this time it went over to Brandon. He was writing something, and was really concentrating. He paused for a second as if someone was whispering something to him and he was doing his best to listen. Then he resumed to whatever he was writing, his concentration more intense.

As I sat in my seat and watched him, slowly those around me disappeared, including the letter. The whispered, cleared throats, giggles and laughs slowly disappeared into the background. All I could do was stare, not in the scary stalker way, but more in the unbelievable way. A feeling swept through me, one I have never felt or identified before. My heart began to race a little, and all I wanted to do was look at him, and look at him. I mean really look at him.

It wasn't until a paper ball hit my head that I finally snapped out of my trance. I grew redder than before and ducked my head down to my paper, hoping no one noticed my staring, especially Brandon. I now turned my full attention to my unfinished letter, and realizing I had only a few more minutes left, I began to write.

-but I believe love should give you this feeling you can't identify. Like you feel safe when you're around her, at ease, and like the world is all right. Love is when you can tell this person anything, even your deepest secrets. The people around you should cease to exist when you are with her, and all you can feel is this warmth and happiness. It should be a feeling that should scare you but at the same time makes you see the world differently.

I guess that's the best way for me describe what love is. I hope I helped in some ways.

I'll end this letter with a quote.

"You can look for love in the palm of your hands or on the planets in space, but in the end you're going to find love buried within your very heart."

Yours Truly, -Wanderer

By the time I finished the bell rung. I quickly put the letter on the table at the back. As my paper laid on the table, I felt a sense of.. How do I explain it? Comfort... Yes, comfort. In away it felt like I didn't answer this person's question. Instead I felt as if I ended up answering my own question, one I never thought of or thought I needed to ask...

And with that feeling I left the class.

The whole school day went by pretty fast. I didn't even notice that school was over until the rush of students hurried out of class and out of the school building.

" Damn it!" Katie cried as she stood beside my locker. " I have to work after school with him again!"

"Aw.. Poor baby," I said. " Look just keep thinking this: If you don't work with him, you will fail and then your parents will kick your ass. Happy now?"

Katie gave me a fake smile. "Yes I am, thank you Haley. You sure are a big help!"

I chuckled. " Hey be thankful. I have to technically baby sit my cousin and all his rowdy friends today!"

" What are you talking about? Harold is a little kid. Andy, though, is practically still a baby!" Katie cried. After a few more minutes of whining from Katie, we finally parted.

I ran to the bus, and was relieved to find it was still there. I got on, and saw that Brandon was there. I decided that it was my turn to take a seat next to him. For some reason after Answerer's letter, I didn't feel like I should avoid Brandon anymore.

"Hey," I said as I sat down next to him.

"Hey," he said back. He flashed me a smile, and I noticed he had a dimple on the right side of his cheek. I was now suddenly aware at how cute he is. I mean I always knew he was a hot guy, carrying the mysterious look and all. But I guess I was never really aware of it...

That is until now...

I began to grow hot which was ironic for it was about 50 or less degrees.

" So why aren't you spending your after school working on your project with Lucy?" I asked as brightly as I could.

" I'm sort of busy today," he explained.

"Oh," was all I said. I didn't want to ask what he was busy with. After all if he wanted me to know he would have told me right?

We sat in silence for a while, and soon I began to get the feeling that something was wrong with him. He kept inching himself closer to the window, as if he did not want to make any contact with me, not even the slightest.

"Is something wrong?" I asked him. He stopped moving, but kept his gaze out the window. "Nope, nothing is wrong," said he.

I didn't say anything else. The bus arrived to Brandon's neighborhood and suddenly I realized I had to get off here in order to reach my cousin's preschool/daycare. I got up along with Brandon when the bus pulled over to the stop. When I did, Brandon shot me a surprised look but didn't say anything. I just ignored the look and continued walking down the aisle and down the steps.

I walked towards the left, opposite of Brandon's house direction. Soon though I realized that Brandon was also walking my direction. I stopped walking and waited for him to reach me.

" I thought your house is over there," I pointed. Then immediately I said, "Not that I know which house it is... I mean I just usually see you walking that way, not that I always look or.." I just stopped talking because I knew if I continued I would just be making more of a fool of myself.

Brandon didn't look like he thought I was an idiot, but more like he was amused. He grinned and said, " I have to pick up my little brother today."

"Oh," I said. " I have to pick up my little cousin Harold. Guess they're in the same preschool then."

The two of us continued walking alongside each other towards the school. During the silent walk I kept trying to think of something to talk about but nothing came up. By the time I finally gave up, we had already arrived at the preschool.

My cousin's preschool was called Lily's Garden. It was full of flowers everywhere; lots of them were pink and red. As Brandon and I walked up to the door of the building, I could smell the mixed scents of the flowers.

"This is a nice place," I said with a sigh. "It's like a park almost."

"Yeah, my brother loves it here," muttered Brandon. He opened the door and stepped into the building, with me following after him.

When we entered, the flower scent was gone and I was hit with the smell of finger paint and cookies and milk. Kids were running around, some crying while others giggled. There was about two grown women there, one white haired, and the other was young with fiery red hair. Both of them did not notice our entrance for they were too busy cleaning two kids with paint all over their faces and clothes. I searched for my cousin, a fat pudgy little boy, through the crowd of kids. I ended up finding him sitting on the ground along with another boy playing with blocks. Harold had a cookie in his mouth.

I walked over to the group, thinking that Brandon was off finding his brother. I was surprised to see he was instead, walking with me towards my destination.

I sat down beside Harold and poked his side playfully. " Hey Harold!"

"Hi Haley," said Harold through his mouthful of cookie. He grinned up at me.

"Are you excited for your party?" I asked him, smiling. Harold responded with a vigorous nod. Meanwhile Brandon sat down beside the other boy with the blocks and was saying to him, " Hey Timmy." Brandon said in his soft tone, with a hint of playfulness," What'd ya doing?"

"Blocks," Timmy answered, taking a block to show him.

"Wow," Brandon said, feigning wonderment. " Can I play too?" Timmy nodded and the two of them began to stack the blocks. I found myself staring at the two of them, awed by the sight. My heart did a little twist as I watch Brandon and the boy play. I realized how alike Timmy was to him. He too had the enchanting blue eyes, and the smile his brother rarely shows. Timmy was like a replica of Brandon.

Suddenly I was snapped out of my staring when I realized Harold was pulling at my sleeve.

"Haley," he cried. " Can we take Timmy to the party? He's my only friend and I want him to be there!"

I was surprised. "Oh, well-..."

"Um, it's all right," Brandon immediately jumped in. "Timmy has to go home and take a bath anyway." As he said that, out of the corner of my eye, I saw both Timmy and Harold faces drop to disappointment.

"Brandon," I said. "I was going to say that it'd be a good idea to take Timmy along. Harold doesn't really get along with the other kids, and the fact that he has a friend at the party, other than aunts and uncles, it would be a good thing. Besides, I don't think you want to deny your brother of the chance to eat chocolate cake, with lots of icing, now would you?"

Brandon couldn't find a response. So right away I said cheerfully, "Okay Timmy, Harold, we have a party to go to." I got up and held out both my hands out to the two boys, which they took and got up. "Lets get going now shall we?" The two boys smiled and nodded.

Brandon got up right away and said, "It's really okay Haley, I mean-..."

"Brandon," I said, cutting him off. " Come on. Live a little. It'll be fun, and besides I could use the company being I will be the only teenager there."

"Well..." Brandon said. I could tell he was giving in. " Okay, but not too long though. Mom and dad will want Timmy to be home in time for dinner."

"Well, boys, you heard the guy, let's go!" I cried excitedly. The boys responded with enthusiasm, both pulling on my hand, making me walk towards the door.

After a hurried good-bye with their teachers, all four of us set off towards my house. Timmy was a darling, and I became quite fond of him. I could tell Brandon loved Timmy very much because around him, Brandon was a whole new person. He became more humorous, smiling more and laughing too. He loosened up, and kept kidding around with Harold and Timmy. He even lost that sad longing look he usually had on his face.

Once in a while, as we walked, I would glance at Brandon and get this warm feeling. Then when he looked at me, I would look away, and blush. This happened all through our walk.

We arrived to my house in a short time. Harold and Timmy ran up the steps and began to ring the bell more times then needed. The door opened right away, Harold's mom came out smiling.

"Mommy!" Harold cried, as he jumped into her arms.

" Harold!" His mom said. When she released him, she turned to look at Timmy and said, " Now who is your little friend?"

"Timmy," Timmy said in a soft tone. He spoke in such a way that made him sound so much older than three years old.

" What a polite young man," my aunt said. "Well come in, it's cold out here, both of you. There's cake for you two."

Timmy and Harold grinned and immediately went into the house, my aunt following after them. Brandon and I stood out on the porch.

"You want to go in?" I asked. Honestly I didn't want to. Knowing my mother, she would ask questions about Brandon and my father would juts give me that look. I guess my face showed my thoughts for Brandon said, "Nah, I think I want to sit outside."

He turned and sat on the steps. I settled beside him, aware at how close we were. As the soft breeze flew passed us, I shivered slightly, and couldn't help but wish Brandon would put his arms around me.

"Timmy is a wonderful boy," I said suddenly, wanting my thoughts of Brandon to disappear.

Brandon looked at me and grinned, " Yeah he is."

"You can't even tell he's.." I stopped myself from saying anything for I realized that I've just crossed a line. " Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't-..."

"It's okay Haley," he said right away. He smiled, but this smile was sad. " You're right, he doesn't seem like he has cancer. That's good I guess..." His voice began to break. " But no matter how hard I try to remind myself he's okay, I just keep getting these thoughts that he'll... He'll-..." He didn't finish. I could tell he was trying to hold back his tears. Instead of seeing that quiet mysterious cover he always had on, I now just saw a very vulnerable boy.

"Brandon," I said softly, inching closer to him. Reluctantly, I put my arm around him. " It's okay to be afraid. But try not to let those thoughts get to you. You have to stay positive. I think Timmy needs that from his brother right now."

He was silent and didn't say anything. Instead, he placed his head on my shoulder, and we stayed in that position for a moment. Suddenly he lifted his head and looked at me.

" I lied Haley," he said quietly. He looked guilty for some reason.

I looked at him with surprised. " About what?"

" I lied about Timmy," Brandon said. He looked away from me and stared at his hands. " Timmy isn't my brother."

I didn't understand. " What? Is he your cousin? Someone your parents adopted?" I asked, not sure what he was saying.

Brandon shook his head. " No Haley, nothing like that." He took a deep breath and looked at me again. " Haley, Timmy's not my brother... He's my son."