NONE OTHER THAN
Chapter Two: Late Night Walks And Midnight Talks

"Duke!" I hold the phone away from my ear, trying to keep my eardrum in one piece. "Duke. Duke. Duke. Duke. Duke. Duke. DUKE!"

"What?!" I shout back at Emma on the other line. I walk over to my window and pull up my blinds to see her leaning out her window about twenty feet away from mine.

"You know how the Petersen's sold their house last month?"

"Yeah." I answer slowly.

"Guess. Just guess who moved in." I can see her bright, white-toothed smile from here and I know the answer.

"You're kidding me."

"Nope!" She says, grinning even wider. "I just saw Darren and Jacob Zidichowski over in the front yard tossing around a basketball. They're still there now!" I glance toward the front yard and sure enough there are two shapes in the driveway across the street from mine playing one-on-one.

"Isn't it a bit late to be playing outside? How can they even see?" I ask, turning my attention back to Emma.

"I don't know but they've got their shirts off." Emma pulls out a pair of binoculars and aims them towards the pair. "That's gotta be cold."

I laugh and rub the back of my head. It's still sore from the bump Teigan gave me two days ago in gym. "You know I think what you're doing is considered stalker material."

Emma puts down the binoculars and looks at me. "Really?" I nod and she tosses the binoculars onto her bed.

"DUKE!"

"Hang on a sec Em, my mom's calling me." I stand up and walk to my door, opening it and looking down the stairs to see my mother at the landing. "What?" I ask.

"Will you take Lark for a walk?" I sigh dramatically. That would mean going outside. And it's cold outside. "Oh, hush. Put on your track pants and a sweatshirt and you'll be fine. You can ask Emma if she wants to go to."

"YES!" My mom and I both look at the phone in my hands and laugh, knowing Emma had probably been listening the entire time.

"Be back before ten thirty." She says before turning around and walking back into her bedroom.

"C'mon Em." I say back into the phone. "Meet me outside in five." Hanging up the phone on my desk I pull on a pair of track pants and my favorite sweatshirt. It's light brown in the middle with dark brown sleeves and hood, with light blue lettering on the front spelling out AERO.

"Lark." I say, whistling for my golden retriever to come. She bounds up the basement stairs, her leash in her mouth. She knows exactly where she's goin'. "Good girl." I say, hooking the leash to her collar. "Let's go." I scratch behind her ears before walking out the front door.

Just as I walk out of my house Emma shut her front door, her hair done up in a cute, messy ponytail with a touch of makeup reapplied on her face. I shake my head but smile as she meets me in my driveway.

"So we're gunna walk in front of them right? Please tell me we are." Emma says, looping her arm through my free one. Lark walks a little ahead of us, sniffing out places on the grass and next to posts.

"Emma, I know you like Ryan so why do you insist on denying it?" She looks at me and sticks out her lower lip.

"He's never gunna notice me so why should I keep trying so hard?"

"Oh Em." I say, pulling her into a little side hug. "He notices you I promise."

She looks at me, still pouting and says, "How do you know?"

"You know when we went to the Oakridge Plaza? It was just you, me, Ryan, and Sean and we got dinner at The Italian Place, and then we decided to run through the fountain, even though it was November last year, and neither of us had jackets."

Emma smiles. "Yeah, I remember. We got completely soaked and then we had that guy take a picture for us."

"Yeah. Ryan has that picture framed on his nightstand. Do you remember who he was standing next to in the picture?" I ask. I see her face blush for a moment before it fades away.

"He had his arm around my waist." She says in a whisper.

I nod, knowing I've gotten her hopes up again. I can't tell her outright that I know he'd ask her out in a heartbeat if he wasn't so shy himself. I've had all night talks with my brother before, and he's told me a lot of stuff that's good to know, (he hasn't done drugs, doesn't drink, etc.) and some stuff I didn't want to know. (That I will not inform you of for your own good.)

"You just keep flirting with him. Who knows, maybe this year he'll ask you to Winters."

"God I hope so." Emma says, giggling. "I've been hoping that for three and a half years!" She stops and looks at me. "You'll give him a little boost won't you?" I smile and nod.

"Of course."

She squeals and hugs me until I can barely breathe. "Love you too Em." I cough out as she releases me.

"Well now that I've possibly secured a date this year, we need to worry about you."

"Oh, no you don't. I'm going away to college and I don't want to get caught up in anything."

"Sure you do." Emma says, grinning evilly.

"Emma." I say warningly.

"How about Darren? I think he likes you." She says, looking at the back of my head. "Aw. It's a love bump."

"Shut up." I say, pushing her to the side lightly. She giggles and I notice that we're almost back to my house.

On the opposite side of the street.

"Hey look, it's your future husband!" Emma says, laughing harder.

"Shut up, Em!" I say, laughing myself.

"He—" I cover Emma's mouth before she can actually catch their attention, but Lark seems to do the job for her. She grabs the leash in her mouth and yanks it out of my hand before I can have a chance to react.

"Lark!" I yell, knowing she's going for the ball. Sure enough she bolts straight for the ball in Teigan's hand and hits it with her nose before he can do anything, making a basket. That's Ryan, Sean, and Daniel's dog for you there. My brothers know how to train a dog.

"Holy shit." I hear Jake's voice say as we run up to their driveway.

"Sorry, sorry." I say, taking Lark's leash back into my hand. She wags her tail as I wrap the leash around my hand again. "Nice shot ya little show off." I whisper to her.

"Sorry? That was awesome!" Jake says again. He sticks out his hand. "Jake Zidichowski." He says. I shake his hand to humor him.

"I know who you are." I say.

"How-?"

"She goes to our school dimwit." Teigan says, picking up a slobbery ball from the ground. "I didn't know you lived around here, Duke."

"Since when are you on a first name basis?" Emma says, looking pleased. Teigan's forehead wrinkles in confusion.

"That's her first name?" He asks.

"It's a nickname, but yeah, it is." I say, annoyed that after three days in half of his classes he didn't notice the teachers calling on me regularly in class as 'Ms. Knight.'

"Well then, what's your actual first name?" He asks, stepping closer. I can see his stunning blue eyes from the light hanging on the garage and I don't respond for a moment as I stare back at him.

"I'd rather not say. I don't particularly like my first name." He smirks slightly and I wonder why.

"Your name isn't that bad. I think it's pretty." Emma says. "Her name's—" I cover her mouth once again.

"Well I'm expected back home in a minute and so is Emma here so we'll be seeing you both tomorrow in school." I say, walking with one arm around Emma, still covering her mouth, and my other making sure Lark doesn't get loose again.

"See you tomorrow Duke." I hear Teigan say as we walk across the street. I can still feel him watching me as I walk all three of us into my house.

"Emma, have I ever told you that I very much dislike the fact that you enjoy telling people every aspect of my life?"

"Every day." She says, winking at me. "See you tomorrow."

"Get outta here." I say, swatting at her with Lark's now loose leash. She laughs and walks out the door, running across the lawn to her own yard.

"Loose leash." I say out loud. "That's a tongue-twister. Loose leash, loose leash, loose leash…"


"Hey Duke, you awake?" I roll over and groan, looking up at Ryan sitting on the edge of my bed. I can tell he hasn't gotten much sleep from his unruffled dark brown hair and the fact that the veins around his dark blue eyes are a darker red than normal.

"Yeah, sure. What's up?" I ask, sitting up myself. I rub my eyes to make myself more awake.

"Are you sure Emma likes me?"

Ah. Isn't life wonderful when you're the middleman?

"Trust me Ryan, she likes you, a lot." He pulls his legs up onto the bed and I know we're about to have a long talk. He opens his mouth to say something but I hold up a hand.

"Food first." I say. He smiles and we walk downstairs together.

"Cocoa puffs?" He asks, pulling out a large bag of cereal from the cupboard.

"Definitely. Get the marshmallows too." I say, grabbing a large bowl from underneath the counter. I set it on the table as Ryan pours both foods into the bowl, mixing them together.

"Vanilla or sherbert?" I ask, rummaging through the freezer for the ice cream.

"I'd say vanilla tonight." Ryan says, opening the garage door. He pokes his head back in. We've got enough Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, or Minute Maid."

"What about the Ginger ale?" Ryan shakes his head.

"Mom drank the rest of it earlier tonight."

"All of it?" He nods again.

"Alright then… the Dr. Pepper." I say, scooping vanilla ice cream into two tall cups. (Green and Blue plastic with our names on them.) He brings in four cans of Dr. Pepper and slowly pours them on top of the ice cream.

"Do we have any oreos?"

"To the left under the pasta bag." Ryan says. I hear him swear as the fizz over flows on his cup. He grabs a rag and cleans it up as I grab the bowl of cocoa puffs and marshmallows with the oreos under my arm.

"Can you grab both drinks?"

"Yup."

"We're gunna get fat." I say as we walk back up the stairs.

"We're still young with good metabolisms."

"Cheers to that." I say, tiptoeing past Sarah and Brent's room. The triplets are all asleep in there with them, and when they wake up, the entire house is awake for the rest of the night.

Not that Ryan and I probably won't be anyway.

"We can't stay awake without our midnight snack anyway." Ryan says, settling down on the floor in the middle of my room. I join him and glance at the clock.

"More like three a.m. big bro." I mutter. "You have the worst timing for these talks. I'm gunna be so tired tomorrow."

"Too bad." He says, grabbing a handful from the bowl and stuffing it into his mouth. I laugh and we sit there, munching silently before he says anything. "Do you think she'd say yes if I asked her to Winters?"

I fight the urge to laugh. "I think she'd die of happiness."

He smirks and takes a sip of his float. "How do you think I should do it? I wanna ask her in a way that she'll remember."

"Just save the really good ideas for prom." I say.

"Who says I'll be taking her to prom too?" I raise my eyebrows and simply look at him. "Alright, we'll save the good ones for prom."

"You could always ask her at the pep rally. Make a really cute poster and have it up on the wall when she walks in."

"Or something with balloons?"

"What is it with you and balloons?" I ask.

He shrugs. "They're fun. And colorful."

"They're colorful huh?"

"Yes." We laugh and he grabs another handful of our mix.

"How about a poster and balloons." I say after a moment.

"Sounds perfect." He says, smiling. "Now what should we do about you?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean I can't have a date with your best friend and leave you to go stag."

"Sure you can." He shakes his head. "Why not?"

"Because you're my baby sister and I've got to take care of you."

"And that involves getting me a date for the Winters dance?"

"Yes." I roll my eyes and throw a cocoa puff at him.

"Oh it's on." He says.

"Wha-?" He throws a cocoa puff at me and it goes straight into my mouth. I laugh and throw one back at him, and then he takes a handful and chucks it at me. I feel a marshmallow stick in my messy ponytail.

"Oh it's on now big bro." I say, taking a handful back at him.

"Hey! No cocoa puffs down the pants he says one comes dangerously close to going down his boxers. He throws a handful at me and it goes all over my bed.

"You are so helping me clean this up tomorrow!" I say, still trying to keep my voice down.

"Oh? Who says?" He laughs and ducks behind my desk chair to avoid my handful.

"You butt!"

He laughs and ducks again, and throws another handful back at me.

"Move the drinks, move the drinks!" He says, clutching his side as he laughs while watching me trip on my rug after moving the drinks.

"I hate you." I say, attempting to tackle him to the ground.

Instead he starts tickling me. My one weakness and of course my older brother knows it.

"Say uncle!" He says, still digging his fingers into my sides.

"Never." I choke out, laughing hysterically.

"Shh." He says, laughing. "You'll wake up the triplets." Immediately we both stop, still giggling slightly.

"We'd better get some sleep. I've got a test on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night tomorrow."

"Shit. That's tomorrow?" Ryan says, staring at me in disbelief. I nod. "Crap." He says, holding the bridge of his nose.

"C'mon, I'll help you study for it." I say, reaching for my bag and trying to avoid crunching any cocoa puffs or squishing any marshmallows into my carpet.

"I love you little sis." He says, putting on his cheesiest grin.

"Shut up and sit down." He does just that.

"Okay, the play was written in…"


Author's note: So this is chapter two. There's a lot of dialogue I know, but that's probably my favorite part of writing. And don't laugh; I have had all of those snacks before. The cocoa puffs and marshmallows are quite delicious, but eat them all before they get stale!

And don't worry, the background will work its way into the story little by little. I don't like to just say it outright normally so give it time and it'll come out. Also, you will find out what her real name is.

Please Review! It really gets me motivated