No Matter What

"Okay Gadsbys!" Anna shouted when a sleepy looking Cole answered the door. The rest of the family groggily made their way downstairs. "I cleared my schedule and I know you're not busy. You're spending the day with me!"

"Belle," Adam whined. "It's ten in the morning on our first day on break. Can't you let us sleep?"

"Well today is the only day I can take off work and cancel plans with my boyfriend while you guys don't have any stuff. First I'm going to make my favorite family breakfast while they get ready. Then we'll go to the beach for a bit. Then we'll go to lunch. And then the rest of they day you can decide. As long as at least one Gadsby is with me!"

The males let out a collective groan. Babette laughed at the group.

"I think it's a great idea Annabelle. The boys are just grumpy. Make them chocolate-chip pancakes and the smell alone will make them happier. Works every time." Annabelle smiled brightly at Babette.

"Okay Gadsbys up the stairs! Breakfast in fifteen. Be ready with your beach gear."

"Gosh Adam, why did you choose a best friend who is so happy bright and early?" Lucas groaned while going up the steps.

"You mean my amazingly perfect best friend who missed us so much she wanted to spend a day with us because she's amazing!" Adam stated loudly.

"Adam, stop sucking up to me. I'm not letting you waste your first day back with me sleeping." Annabelle laughed while Adam groaned.

"Fine." He huffed up the last few stairs. He smirked to himself as he thought of a plan to make both him and his family happy. "Gadsby family meeting in my room real quick."

"What is it Adam?" Cole asked.

"Look. I need a favor. I need to talk to Belle alone today. So we all win here. You don't have to be out the whole day and I get time with my best friend. I need you to ditch us at one point. I don't care what you use as an excuse, be creative. Pleasee?" Adam begged.

"Yeah Adam, of course we will. Right boys?" Babette smirked with a knowing smile.

"Yeah whatever. Can I shower now?" Lucas huffed.

"Please do, you reek." Cole laughed.

"Annabelle, that was delicious." Papa Gadsby said.

"Please come to school with us and be my personal chef. These pancakes you made me actually taste delicious." Cole said rubbing his tummy.

Lucas hopped off this stole and got on one knee. "Annabelle Connors, marry me please!"

"Lucas get off the floor," Babette sighed. "I told you could win them over with food. Who knew you could win me too! These were the best I ever had. Come on boys, let's finish getting ready. Adam, you help with dishes okay?"

"Yes mommy," Adam smiled.

They washed dishes in silence. As she dried the last plate, Adam turned towards her. He placed a quick kiss on her head.

"Breakfast was amazing." He said softly and sauntered out of the room with a smirk on his face.

"Anna! Anna!" Chip called. "Come play in the water with me!"

"Sure bud. Did you put sunscreen on yet?"

"Of course. Now come on!" Chip said tugging on her wrist. He took off in a run towards the water forcing Anna to run as well. They dove into the water and when they emerged they saw the three remaining Gadsby boys talking with a group of girls. The Gadsby boys had always been popular with the ladies. Anna snickered as she saw, even from a far, the girls blatantly flirting with the bathing suit clad brothers. The boys managed to pry themselves away from the girls. Cole and Lucas joined Chip and Anna in the water while Adam went to go put his cell phone with his stuff.

"If it isn't the heartthrobs. Those girls were smitten." Anna giggled.

"Anna shut up, they were thirteen." Lucas moaned.

"That doesn't mean they weren't putting it out there."

"Shut up!" Cole yelled splashing water towards her.

"Oh it's on heartthrob numero tres." She said splashing him back, some of the water splashing Lucas.

"You did not just get my perfectly straightened hair wet!"

"Whatcha gonna do about it?" Anna teased. Lucas began relentlessly splashing her, Cole helping him. Chip turned his wrath on Anna too.

"Chip!" Anna cried. "I thought we were buddies! Why are you betraying me like that?"

"Sorry Anna, but I gots to win. Go ask Adam for help." Anna ran toward Adam, who had just walked into the water.

"Adam! Save me!" Anna called and hid behind him.

"No way Belle. I'm not going in a splash war against them. They're too good."

"HEY! You're supposed to be my best friend!" She said and hit him on the arm.

"You did not just hit me!" He yelled and picked her up.

"NO Adam! Don't do it!" He laughed and threw her into the water.

"Okay I surrender!" She announced when she emerged from the water.

"That's right. You don't mess with the Gadsby brothers." Chip said, puffing out his chest.

"Let's go in, I'm hungry." Lucas moaned.

"Last one there is a rotten egg!" Chip called and made a mad dash towards his parents. Cole and Lucas sprinted after him. Anna started to run but Adam caught her wrist. He put his arm around her shoulders.

"Sorry bros before hoes, ya know?" Adam asked jokingly.

"So I'm a hoe now?" Anna joked.

"Never. I could never love a hoe, but I love you!" He said and turned her chin to look at him. He planted a lingering yet chaste kiss on her forehead. She froze in place, giving him just enough time to run away.

"Not fair!" She cried.

"Pww, what's that smell?" Lucas asked as she finally reached them.

"Smells like rotten egg." Cole suggested.

"Must be Belle." Adam kidded.

"So what should we do now?" Annabelle asked the Gadsby' after lunch.

"MALL!" Lucas shouted.

"No!" Anna exclaimed. "You got us kicked out last time Lucas. Let's just stay here. There are plenty of cafés and little shops. I want to get some new CDs." The group nodded in response.

"We're taking Chip to the park. Come find us when you are ready." Papa J told the group. Anna grabbed Cole and Adam's wrists and dragged them into the music store, with Lucas trailing behind.

"Cole, Adam, lets go look through records."

"What about me?" Lucas called.

"Ask that clerk girl where they keep the Barney CDs." Anna joked.

"ANNABELLE OPHELIA CONNORS! I do not listen to Barney!"

"Lucass! Why did you have to say her middle name? You know she hates it? Look now she's upset." Adam scolded.

"I..I..I was just trying to be funny." She sniffled.

"Stop faking Anna. You're a bad actress." Cole joked.

"I hate you all." Annabelle said and walked away.

"What did I do?" Adam called.

"You're related to them!"

"Hey I was born first. I didn't have a say in the matter."

"Fine come with me. Let's find some grooooovyy records," she said striking a disco pose and falling into a fit of laughter when Adam, Cole and Lucas started discoing over to her.

"Oh look at the time! Three-o-clock!" Babette exclaimed. "Your father and I must be getting home to get ready for our date. You don't mind, do you Annabelle? We hardly had any date time when we were away."

Anna sighed. "Of course. Have fun you two. I'll take care of your boys." Babette smiled kindly and walked away hand in hand with her husband.

"Well you'll be two less, Chip has a play date with his old friend and I intend to date his sister, so I'm taking him. Sorry Anna." Cole grabbed Chip by the shoulders and began walking towards the exit of the mall. He turned around a few feet away. "Bye! Have Fun!"

"Then there were three." Anna sighed.

"Two." Lucas said.

"Excuse me?" Anna asked.

"This really cool chick Olivia asked me out on a date while you were picking out CDs. I can't miss this date. She's awesome. Pwease let me go Anna!" Lucas begged with a puppy dog pout.

"No! Not the pout! I can't resist the Gadsby pout! Fine. Go have fun." Anna laughed.

"Thank You! Thank You!" Lucas hugged Anna. "My dear Annabelle and my brother! Have fun!"

"So are you leaving me for a date too?" Anna asked dejectedly.

"Why are you emphasizing date like that?" Adam asked.

"You're family kept doing it. I thought I have been saying it wrong my whole life or something." Anna laughed.

"Yes that was a little odd of them." Adam grumbled.

"So I guess it's just the two of us then." Anna sighed.

"Is that going to be a problem? I was under the assumption you should enjoy time with your best friend. You sound awfully depressed." Adam laughed lightly.

"I am happy I get to spend time with you Adam. You know that your family is like family to me too. I know we won't all get to be together very much. You are always all around each other. And I'm hardly around any of you. So it's hard for me when you all go and do separate things."

"Aw Belle." Adam pulled her into a hug and kissed her temple. "We'll go get Cold Stone okay? That'll make it better. I'll pay."

"Okay" She quietly sniffled and let Adam guide her with his arm around her towards the ice cream shop.

The pair sat and ate their ice cream quietly.

"Hey Belle?" Adam asked when he was halfway done.

"Yes Adam?" She looked up at him.

"Why do you only like it when I call you Belle? I mean when I first called you that, I was teasing you about your obsession with Beauty and the Beast you had when you were younger."

"Three reasons. One you're my very best friend, I like that you have something special to call me. Two, the way you say it, I don't know, it just sounds right when you say it." Anna blushed. "Three, you were there through my Beauty and the Beast phase and would always play the Beast when I wanted to act it out. And with the exception of you calling me Belle, you never even teased me about it. Why did you randomly ask?"

"Okay, I was just wondering."

They lapsed into another silence.

"Hey Adam?" Belle asked after a minute.

"Yes Belle?"

"You're the best friend a girl could ask for. I love you."

Adam sighed. "I love you too Belle, forever." He looked back down at his ice cream, he didn't want it anymore, he was merely playing with it.

"Look Belle," her head shot up as his voice pierced their bubble of silence. "I know you're dating Gaston and everything. But I think you could do so much better. And this is so hard to say, you know? But I was wondering if-" He was cut off an obnoxious chirping.

"Hold that thought Kev, I just got to check this text." Adam groaned and rubbed his temples. Anna opened the text message and Adam watched as her color faded and her eyes filled with anger. She slid the phone towards him.

"He wore that exact outfit on our date last night. The one he asked me to be his girlfriend on. And then he went to a party and did that," Anna said disgusted.

"Who sent you a picture of him making out with some other chick?" Adam asked. He didn't dare bring up that this might be a misunderstanding. He didn't like Gaston; he didn't want Anna with him.

"It's an unknown number."

"I'm so sorry Belle. Do you need anything?" Adam asked, reaching out and grabbing her hand. He rubbed soothing circles with his thumb.

"I need you to drive me to his house."

"Belle, I don't think that is a good idea."

"I need to dump him in person, Adam please. I need to do this now." Adam stood up from the table, pulling her with him.

"Fine, let's go."

"So, how did it go?!" Babette asked her son excitedly as he walked through the door.

"She left my car after punching the dashboard and was crying. And she told me she wanted to be alone and that I shouldn't try calling her. She'd talk to me when she was ready. How do you think it went?" Adam replied, pissed off. He didn't need this right now.

"I could have sworn she would have said yes to a date with you." Babette pondered aloud.

"What are you talking about mother? I didn't ask her on a date. She got this picture message from some girl and it turned into this big mess mom."

"So then why is she upset with you?"

"She isn't upset with me. She's upset because she broke up with Gaston because he already cheated on her. Here I was trying to- erm never mind. I was talking with her when her phone rings and she gets all excited because she thinks it is Gaston," Adam sneers. "Ha, it was a picture of Gaston making out with some other chick. Photo marked last night while she was over here. Belle said he was still wearing the clothes he wore on their date. She was livid. Made me drive her to his house. I sat outside for five minutes. She comes out, calm as anything. Then we're parked outside her apartment and she slams her fist on my dashboard and cries out 'I'm so freaking stupid', flings open the door, tells me not to call her and all that and she runs into her apartment. It's such a mess. I don't know why she won't talk to me about it. We always talk about stuff like this!"

"Maybe there is more to it Adam. Something you're missing." Babette suggested.

"But what?"

"I don't know dear. Why don't you go lay down. I'm sure she'll call or be here soon enough. Give her some time."

"You're right mom, thank you." He replied giving his mom a kiss on the cheek and retreating to his room.

(Adam's thoughts are in italics. I think they're important-maybe even kind of comical- in this section)

That evening there was a knock on the Gadsby's door. Babette was not surprised to find a distressed looking Annabelle on her door step.

"AD-" Babette started to shout.

"NO! Please can I just speak to you alone? It's important. I need to talk to a female."

"Sure honey, come on, we'll talk in the family room."

Annabelle tottered to the couch and plopped down, her back facing the steps. She threw her head into her hands and sighed deeply. Therefore, she did not see Adam arrive at the top of the steps or Babette motion him to sit down on the steps and remain quiet.

"Adam told us you broke up with Gaston. I'm sorry sweetheart. But we both know you're not upset over Gaston. So tell me."

Say whaaa?

"I'm so mad at myself. Mad that I didn't stand my ground with Gaston. Mad that I embarrassed myself in front of him. I'm so mad and so confused. I just don't know what to do."

"Embarrassed yourself in front of Gaston?" Babette asked, however she didn't need the clarification. She shot a fleeting look to her eldest child.

"No never, embarrassed myself in front of- in front of-" Anna stumbled.

"My son?"

She's worried about being embarrassed in front of one of us? Please, look at Lucas, he's always being embarrassing.

"Yes." Anna sighed. "I just like him so much, you know? And romantically, I don't even exist to him. I mean he is always a tad flirty with me but I'm always the friend. I hate it. I can't even deal with this anymore."


"Sweetheart, have you tried telling him?" Babette asked putting a reassuring hand on Annabelle's shoulder.

"I tried to each time he left for school the last five times." Anna breathed out.

"Honey that's over two years!" Babette was shocked by Anna's words for the first time all night.

"I've loved him since my senior prom. Almost three years. It took me a while to work up to it. But I figured telling him before he left would be good, ya know? If he rejects me, I won't have to see him for months and I could wallow by myself and ignore him until it stopped hurting."

"What stopped you each time?" Babette questioned.

"The first time, I just straight up chickened out. But it counts. I was determined, but I just couldn't do it." Anna sighed, frustrated at the mere memory of that January over two years ago.

"Then summer break it was all Gaby this and Gaby that. I was so jealous but he was happy, so I decided I couldn't mess that up for him. So I backed off. I called a lot less that next semester."

Lucas dated a Gaby too?

"The third time, Gaby had just dumped him. And I was happy! I was happy and he was hurting. I was so selfish. But when I was ready to tell him when I said goodbye, he kept telling me how he wished she was there. It sucked. So I didn't tell him."

Poor Belle, I know how she feels. I felt like that today when you dumped Gaston, so happy yet she was hurting.

"The next summer, I thought it would be perfect. He was over Gaby. No other girl was in the picture. Our friendship was stronger than ever. Then came the goodbye. I was ready. But he started this whole spiel about how I was such an amazing best friend and he couldn't ask for a better best friend. Each time he emphasized best friend, he must have said it eight times. I got the point, we were best friends. Not anything more." Annabelle was flustered at this point.

Geez Annabelle, that conversation was with me not Lucas…

"So that's when I decided that I was either going to make him jealous or get over him. Maybe both at the same time. That's when I started dating a lot of guys. Told him about every one of them too. But when you guys got back for Christmas, it was like nothing changed at all. So I decided to just focus on getting over him. I stopped telling him about all the boys I was dating. I tried so hard to forget how I felt for him. Gaston didn't help like I thought he would have."

I remember that tour. God she dated a lot of boys. It sucked; it was all she ever talked about. I suppose I get why now, all to make Lucas jealous.

"So then Annabelle, what's wrong with now?"

"I can't do it anymore. I lost me nerve. I just needed to get it out."

"Then get it out. Say it."

"I don't know Babette, what if he hears?"

"Stop worrying, just say it."

Gosh mom, why did you make me sit through all of this? I thought you understood without words how I feel about her and yet you make me hear how she loves Lucas. What. The. Hell. Is. She. Thinking.?

"I LOVE ADAM GADSBY!" Annabelle shouted standing up.


"Now what are you gonna do about it?!" Babette asked her excitedly.

"Run home. Pretend I never had this conversation. Pretend like I have nothing but platonic feelings for him until you guys leave again and then I can go wallow."

"Annabelle." Babette said as Annabelle walked toward the door.

"Babette. He doesn't feel the same. I can't do this. I just. Thanks for helping me out. I just have to go." And then she left.

Babette got off the couch with a sigh; she passed her son sitting on the top step. He look bewildered, Babette shot him knowing look and proceeded to her bedroom.

"It takes a lot to faze me
I'm pretty stable
I'm pretty sane but...
I'm looking at my future
and, god; do I have to lose her?"

'Madi Don't Leave'- PlayRadioPlay!