This is my first story that I've written for Fictionpress to share, so if it's not okay, then I'll stop posting (and writing).

Love In the Mix

Chapter 1

The clock struck six o'clock.

Daniella Dukes stepped in to her house, inhaled one breath, and already smelled wondrous foods. You see, Daniella was used to it by now with her mother owning a catering company and all. She went in to the kitchen and played the messages on her answering machine. There was one saying her mother had just won a cruise to Hawaii, a call from her best friend Caley, and the most anticipated message: her mother was coming home late yet another night. Daniella jogged up the stairs and put her heavy book bag by her desk. Her room was immaculate, floral pastel walls, a date calendar on the surface of her desk, and a bulletin board with color-coded Post-its She was a neat freak. All the clothes in her closet were even separated in to color groups. Instinctively, Daniella flopped down in her purple wheelie chair, and started to work on her homework. She leaned over in her chair and grabbed her remote for her iHome. Augustana's All the Stars and the Boulevards was her choice for today, letting the CD play all the way through. After an hour or so, Daniella heard a door slam. About ten minutes later, her mother called, "Ella dear, can I have your help for a second?"

Daniella stood up, smoothed her pink plaid skirt, and pulled her pastel pink camisole up from where it had ridden down from her heavy bust. Her bouncy chestnut curls fell lightly on her shoulders, some always escaping their clips, and landing on her face. Her mother always said she had the face of an angel. Big brown eyes, rose colored lips, a button nose, she was beautiful. Daniella didn't even wear make up. Most kids her age piled it on, but she preferred the natural look.

She went downstairs.

"Yes mom?"

"Sweetie, do me a favor, wash your hands, and then put those h'orderves in that box over there. I have to deliver those and these quiches to the Loches' party tonight."

"Sure." Daniella replied, walking to the sink.

Daniella moved the h'orederves in the box and while she did, the smells attacked her nose, and she realized how hungry she really was.

"Mom, I'm starving. What's for dinner?"

"Well…I have to deliver these so when I get back around 8ish, I'll make some Mac & Cheese or something. I think we have a box." She went and looked, "Oh, I'll think of something else, it's no big deal."

Ella frowned. She loved her mother's gourmet meals, but more and more lately her mother had skipped cooking for them, and Daniella was forced to fill her mom's shoes. Daniella wasn't a very knowledgeable cook, she watched cooking shows to learn more, but she didn't get the training. It's very sad considering her mother is a gourmet cook, but Daniella did the best she could trying new recipes. She smiled in fake way to not make her mother feel bad, but inside she was upset, too much annoyance and hurt was getting the best of her. All these years of her mother putting her catering career before her daughter was starting to make Daniella feel unimportant.

"Well, there's a late party tonight, and there's brownies and pastry bites in the oven. Ty should be here any minute; When I get back, I'll make us something I promise. We'll eat and then I have to go back out, but by then Meg will be home from her date with Craig.

Ding Dong

"I'll get it, it's probably Ty, finish boxing those up sweetie." Her mother shoved the last few mini cakes in to a box and ran to the door.

Christa Dukes was a woman in her early forties although she looked like she was in her fifties. After her husband died, she had let herself go, and all the late nights in the kitchen had caught up to her. Christa buried herself in her business. She dressed for comfort not beauty, and let her gorgeous red hair turn gray in the roots. But she always put on a good face, and kept her true feelings hidden.

The door opened and a handsome young man in his early twenties entered, his name was Ty Barkley.

Ty Barkley worked more with Christa than for her. He was her unofficial partner. He was always funny and loved food almost as much as Christa. Ty was always around and was apart of the family, being a son to Christa. His mother and Christa were great friends, so when she heard Ty had attended culinary school, she gave him a job and one thing led to another, and he became her left and right hand.

"Hello Christa, Ella." Ty said with a nod going over to kiss Christa on the cheek while she hurriedly closed a box. He ran a hand through his dark hazelnut hair.

"Hey Ty," Ella said without even looking up from her English paper.

"Okay, keys, h'orderves, brochures, what else did I need?" Christa muttered to herself while looking under pillows and under shelves for her purse. When she found it, she turned around and looked at Daniella.

"Okay, Ella dear, Meg should be home late tonight. Don't open the door, unless it's me and I'll identify myself. Food's in the oven, the timer is on, don't let it burn. When it's done, put them in a box, okay?" She went over and kissed Daniella on the cheek while grabbing her keys from the table.

"And I won't let our house go down in flames either." She joked.

Daniella was used to her mother's worrying, she was very overprotective but was never around to take care of her daughter. Hypocritical maybe?

Ty stood there smiling, on his way out, he shouted, "Don't talk to strangers!"

Mrs. Dukes hit his head playfully.

"Ow." He murmured while rubbing the sore spot on his head.

"See you sweetheart!"

"Bye mom!" Ella said with a sad tone in her voice. She had too many memories of saying bye to her mother, and not very many of cooking with her, or talking to her mom about her day at school. She was sick of being second priority to her mother's career. With that one phrase, "bye mom," she was home alone….again. Daniella went to the sofa in the living room and opened up her favorite book, Pride and Prejudice waiting for her evening to tick by like the timer on the oven.

Daniella was interrupted from her favorite part in Pride and Prejudice, the scene where Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth while insulting her when the timer beeped on the oven.

She got up reluctantly putting her bookmark in her spot, and got the food out of the oven. She then went through her homework in her head, language arts, did it, math, hmmm, I need to do that. Daniella opened her math book, and saw the title of the chapter: Weighted Averages, a hard lesson, one she didn't quite understand.

"Maybe I should do the physics first, that's easy." She convinced herself. An hour and a half passed, and Daniella was putting away her physics homework when she heard the doorbell.

She glanced at the clock: 9 o'clock. Daniella hurried downstairs and after making sure it was her mother, Ella opened the door. After a few moments, Mrs. Dukes washed her hands and started to place the brownie and pastry bites in separate boxes.

"Is your math homework still giving you trouble?" Christa asked preoccupied with fitting all of the bites in one box.

"Um, I haven't done it yet, you see I started but then I decided to get my physics out of the way first."

"And why is it I see Pride and Prejudice out on the table by the sofa? Daniella, you promised me you'd get your math grade up. Do you need help? Christa could help you? Where is she anyway, she should be home by now. Or Ty could help you. I don't want to receive another phone call from your math teacher." Christa reprimanded sternly.

"Mom, I said I'd get it up, okay? Geez, stop pestering me." Ella's anger at her mother exploded.

"Ella! What is the matter with you? I'll ask Ty next time he comes to tutor you, he was top of his class in math."

"No! Mom! Don't! I'm fine! Really." Ella lied. She already couldn't cook very well, but now Ty has to know she stinks at math too. Talk about embarrassing.

As she reluctantly walked toward the stairs to start her math, which she had no idea how to do, her older sister came through the door. Meg was talking on her cell phone and was dressed in a low cut maroon dress with high heels on.

"Yeah, Craig and I are so over! Can you believe that, talk about boring with a capital B, I mean math majors are interesting but one that keeps track of everything he buys, I mean he didn't even offer to pay my bill at dinner tonight. I can't believe I didn't notice how cheap he was before- oh hey mom." She acknowledged her mom with a nod.

Meg was in her first year of college and currently lived at home. She was the thin sister with the perfect body not to mention GPA, while Daniella was always second best with looks, and grades. No matter what she did, it never measured up to Meg's 101 GPA in Calculus or 99.999 in English 5 or whatever she took. Although Daniella wasn't overweight, she was curvy and plump, not size 5 like Meg no matter what she did. Daniella was double that, plus some, at a size 12 sometimes 14. Meg could eat whatever she wanted and never gain a pound.

"Hello Meg, I could use your help honey if you could tear yourself away from the phone."

Ella walked in to the living room with her math book, and sat on the sofa trying to concentrate.

"So…..Craig is gone?" Christa asked cautiously

"Yep, he is such a jerk." Meg said while popping an apricot button that her mom was putting icing flowers on in her mouth.

"Well, I can't say that I'm sorry to hear that." Christa said smiling as Meg broke out in laughter.

"Go ahead mom, I know you never liked him, I know you're dying to say it, but I'll say it for you. You were right." Meg smiled at her mother and put the finished cakes in a new box.

"Craig wasn't a good match for you. Don't worry, you'll meet someone new tomorrow." Christa reassured her daughter while applying petals on a little cake.

Ella, who could not figure out what to do on her math homework, not to mention where to start picked up Pride and Prejudice and sunk in to the comfy sofa trying to hide herself from her mother's view.

"So, how's school going?" Christa asked Meg while getting out the pan of bacon egg cups from the oven and transferring them in to a clean box.

"Great, college is wonderful, I'm-" Her response was cut short when her cell phone ringtone, High by James Blunt started playing.

Meg checked the caller ID, and picked it up after a huge sigh.

"Hi Craig. Yeah, let's talk. I-" she walked outside on the patio to no doubt end their relationship via phone.

Christa chuckled to herself as she walked in to dining room to put the filled boxes on the table and she saw Ella sitting on the sofa reading.

"Ella! Is your math done?" Christa snapped.

Ella jumped and quickly put the book down and picked up her math book. Christa walked over and took Pride and Prejudice putting it on the counter.

"No reading until your homework is done." She said disappointed in Ella for her poor math grades, semester after semester. Meg never gave her these headaches.

There was a sound of a key being turned in the lock, and a moment later, Ty walked in to the house going over to Christa immediately seeing what she needed help doing.

"The Loches' loved the food, and they booked us for their dinner party next week. What can I help you with for the Francos' party?" Ty asked while taking his jacket off, and rolling up his sleeves and washing his hands in the sink.

"Actually Ty, I have everything under control for the party, but if you could make something for Ella to eat, I'd appreciate that." Christa said while juggling two full boxes of food bringing them to the table.

Ty went over to where Ella was seated, and looked at her with a look of amusement while he watched her struggle with her math.

"So, what do you feel like for dinner?"

"Oh, I'm fine, you don't have to make me anything." Ella said embarrassed to have Ty be forced to cook for her.

"Okay, I'll make whatever I feel like then." He joked with her but she didn't even smile. He looked down at what she was working on, and up at her face where she was biting her lip frowning at the examples.

"Need some help? I remember weighted averages perfectly." Ty offered.

"Oh, you're so busy, you can't do both, help me and cook for me." Daniella cracked a smile.

Ty smiled back, "Okay, so I'll help you with math while the dinner is cooking."

"Okay."

"Great, one second, let me get started." Ty ran in to the kitchen and put some water on to boil to make pasta.

Meg walked back in to the house closing her cell phone with another sigh.

She sat on one of the stools by the counter and watched Ty add the pasta to the boiling water. "Hey Ty."

"Hi Meg, how's it going?" Ty asked

"She broke up with Craig." Her mother chirped in while cutting steak in to bite size pieces and putting them on a toothpick.

"Mother!" Meg exclaimed.

"Ahhhh…. Breakups. Those stink. Mutual?" Ty asked while stirring the pasta.

"Sort of, I broke up with him." Meg said smugly.

"Ah. Not too mutual there, aye?" Ty laughed while draining the pasta.

"Well, you're better off without him."

"Thanks Ty." Meg smiled.

The house phone rang, and Meg went to answer it, she covered the phone and said to her mom, "It's the Debra Franco Mom, She needs you there earlier."

Christa had her hands full so she looked at Ty pleadingly and he went over and talked to her for a few minutes.

"Okay, you're about done here right, so let's load these boxes, and we can go. We'll take my car, and then I'll drop you off after the party. He turned the burner off where he had the rigatoni in a skillet with spinach and sour cream. Scooping it in to a dish, he remembered his offer to help Daniella with her math. Cursing under his breath, he paced over to Ella.

"Ella, hey Mrs. Franco just called and we need to leave earlier than expected. I made pasta for you, it's on the table, but I can't help you with the math, I'm really sorry."

"It's okay, really. I'm fine with it. I'll call Caley." Ella was used to being let down, so she smiled, although it didn't reach her eyes.

"Ty! Let's go!" Christa yelled balancing boxes in her hands.

Ty and Ella's eyes met in that instant and it was clear to Ella that Ty noticed how she was hurt. The gaze was so intense that Daniella made herself look away.

"Night Ty." She said while staring down at the gibberish in her textbook.

"Goodnight Ella." Ty said giving her a meaningful look before grabbing the last three boxes while Meg opened the door for them.

Meg came in to living room and sat on the sofa next to Ella.

"Hiya. So what's new with you?" Meg asked nonchalantly looking over the math lesson.

Ella looked at her sister, "So, I heard you dumped Craig."

Meg sighed again, "What is with this family!" She was about to say something else but James Blunt interrupted her. She leaned over and grabbed her cell opening it.

"Hello? Hey Jill. Yeah, Craig and me are done. Uh huh. Yeah….."

Ella frowned. She gathered her books and headed upstairs to call Caley and hopefully finish her math before ten so she could eat before ER came on.

After trying Caley twice, she laid down on her bed feeling tears spring to her eyes. It seemed everyone was too busy for her. What a family.