Chapter 2

Catching My Breath

Avery's POV July 7, 2005

My stomach is rumbling again, and I feel like I'm in a daze. My sisters and I have been going back and forth between our parents for about a month now. It starting to make me feel like a rag doll but I don't say anything. I think I've learned to not say anything, besides; no one listens to anything I say anyway. So I just go with the flow. It's dad's week with us, and again he's taking us to Rhoda's. This time her kids are going to be there, I'm more nervous about meeting her son then her girls. Boys usually don't like me and pick on me, just like last year at school; my first year in middle school.

It was my first year in a school I didn't know anyone and also my first time wearing uniforms for school. My size and my social skills are probably what made me an easy target for being picked on. I was forced into being in band class by my dad who wanted me to continue playing music; even if I wasn't playing the instrument that I started playing in grade school, the violin. So instead I played the trumpet, but the teacher let everyone know that I had played the violin; which made all the guys in band start picking on me, each one of them were in all most all my classes, gym too.

Ugh, Gym class, Where to even start? The first thing I hated about Gym was that I had to change for gym. It was odd to change in front of other guys, especially when they act like idiots while they do. Instead of dressing in front of everyone I went to the stall to change and left my clothes in a bag in a stall. I made sure to always be the last one out. I hated gym, I don't like sports, nor do I enjoy exercising and I could never keep up with any of the other guys even if I tried. It wasn't till this one guy that was in my class, Chris; grabbed my dress pants and took them over to the urinal and acted like he was going to pee all over my pants that I started hating go to school. I cried and begged my mom to let me stay home every day, sometimes she'd let me stay most days she couldn't. I hated school.

I would go to the school's guidance councilor's office and sit in there all day just talking about my situation and my home life. I was never so glad to get out of that school; thank god I'm going to a new school this year. I don't know exactly if it would be better but I'm hoping it will be. So yeah, I'm kind of nervous about meeting Rhoda's son for that reason. Besides Rhoda kind of acted weird last time we saw her. It was last time we were at dads. Dad, Rhoda and the girls and I were all sitting at his new apartment watching a movie. She leaves with a glare at the girls. A few minutes later dad gets a call and leaves the room. When the movie is over he is off the phone and come sits next to Marie.

"Who was that?" I ask, dad sighs before answering.

"Rhoda," he says, I frown.

"Why did she leave so quickly?"

"She said that Marie was giving her dirty looks." He rolls his eyes at the comment like it's the most ridiculous thing in the world. I glance at Marie; she looks confused. I shake my head.

"Marie wouldn't ever do something like that, I mean look at her. She doesn't know how to be mean." My dad nods and hugs Marie closer. I think I notice tears in her eyes but I don't comment. Olivia plays on the ground not paying much mind to what's going on, I think she's got the right idea.

"You guys hungry? I can order pizza." Marie and I cheer at the best idea that dad's had all day.

Now though, we are sitting in the car almost to Rhoda's house, if the water tower in front of us is the same one that's a few minutes away from her house. The sky is dark and cloudy, I think we are going swimming, we have our swim suits and I brought a t-shirt to wear while we swim. I hate swimming without one I feel naked with it off. I haven't swum shirtless in years if I can remember right. My parents haven't ever said anything to me about it so I guess it's okay. When we go up the hill my stomach tightens even more. I see the familiar scenery and hope I don't do anything too stupid.

I'm still trying to breathe when Rhoda's door opens and a girl with curly brown hair, screams. Okay this is starting off great. My dad laughs and opens his door and gets Olivia out of her car seat, while Marie and I get out. Marie stands there with a smile on her face. It's her shy, embarrassed smile. How can you tell? You may ask. Well her cheeks are all puffed out and her teeth don't show and the rosy cheeks give her away. The girl standing at the door grins at us while we walk towards the door.

"This is Alli; she's been excited to see you guys for a while now."

"Hello," I say.

"Hi," Marie mumbles, I don't know if Alli could hear her.

"Nice to meet you guys, I've been waiting forever for you guys to get here." She walks us inside the run down trailer and into the living room. Then I see him, Gunner. Lying on the floor with his back to us, my eyes roll over his entire body to the back of his head. Then he turns his head and smiles. He has a pretty smile, pearl white teeth. I wasn't expecting that. Even though I had seen his picture and his teeth already I figured his teeth would be like his moms. Nasty, yellow and crooked; but they're not, they are perfect. The pictures on the wall and from what I've heard of him, Gunner loves sports. He is exactly the son my dad always wanted. The feeling in my stomach disappears in an instant. I already know I'm going to hate this boy.

Though I don't want to, I smile down at him and the little girl who is rolling around on the floor. I'm guessing that's Lacey.

"This is Gunner and Lacey," Dad says. "Gunner, Lacey; this is Avery, Marie and Olivia." We all say hi, and Gunner stares at me still smiling. I'm starting to feel a bit awkward. Alli appears beside Marie and grabs her hand.

"Come on, I'll show you my toys!" She says her hands flying everywhere as she walks away with Marie. I feel all alone, Dad hands me Olivia and I sit down on the couch, Lacey jumps up and runs into the room Marie and Alli went into and now I'm alone with Gunner. Oh well, I'll just try to be polite and try not to sound stupid when we talk. He is my dad's girlfriend's son after all. Dad and Rhoda leave the room while talking about the weather.

"So do you like playing games?" I look up from Olivia who is babbling on about something.

"Games?" He rolls his eyes at me.

"Yeah, video games, do you like playing them?" He smiles again, I can't help but smile. He's got a contagious one.

I feel like an idiot already. "Oh, yeah. I love playing games. What kind of games do you play?"

"Mostly baseball and football games, but I like a few other ones. You want to play one with me? We don't got play it for long."

"Ok," I say.

He jumps up from the floor and walks towards a small hallway. "Let me go get my games, I'll be back in a sec." He disappears and I sit here holding Olivia. Lacey comes back and sits on the floor and I smile at her.

"Hi," I smile. She looks at me with big hazel eyes and just watches me. The awkwardness continues until Gunner comes back out with his game and puts it in the PlayStation 2. After we sit down to play and I finally get comfortable with the controls do I start having fun.

"Oh now you're dead, dude!" He smirks and my character falls dead. Darn, I was doing so good too. "Oh well better luck next time." He grins. I frown and give him back his controller.

"I like that game, it was cool."

"Yeah it is, you can borrow it sometime if you like."

My eyes widen. "Really?" No one has ever let me borrow a game before even the friends I had a few years ago. I guess they were afraid I'd mess them up or something.

"Sure, I don't care as long as you take care of it."

"I will, I promise." He rolls his eyes and turns the game off then hands me the game.

"Here don't scratch it up."

"Thanks," I grin.

"Hey guys are you ready to go swimming yet I've been waiting all day!" Alli comes bouncing in with Marie behind her; Alli puts her hands on her hips and shakes her head at us.

"Mom, when are we going swimming?" Lacey asks I take note that it's the first time I've heard her talk. She sounds like a whiny baby, but I keep that information to myself. Maybe I'm just saying that because she won't talk to me.

"If you want to go swimming you better get ready, it looks like it will be raining again soon, and Papaw Jake won't let you get in if it's storming outside so go get ready. The girls run to their room and Gunner goes to his room. Dad hands us our bag and takes Olivia from me. I take my swimming trunks and the shirt out and Marie grabs her bathing suit. I let her go change first in the bathroom and wait till she's out to change. By the time I get out everyone is ready except for Lacey who is upset because she can't find her bathing suit. "Lacey where did you last put it."

"I don't know mom!" She runs and checks the dryer and runs back to her room.

I look at Alli who is dancing from one foot to the other out of boredom. I'm glad to see that Gunner is wearing a shirt, who knows if he'll take it off when we go swimming but I hope not. Being around shirtless guys is weird it feels like they are exposed and I don't like it makes me feel uncomfortable, I really don't know why but it just does. I don't even like being around my dad when he is like that even when we are swimming.

A few minutes later an irritated Rhoda and Lacey appear. Lacey grabs a towel and pushes towards the door. "Come on lets go!"

"Mom always races us up to the pool in her car but we always beat her because she's so slow. Come on hurry up or we won't win!" Alli runs up the hill catching up to Lacey, Marie runs to catch up. I start to run to catch up when I notice that Gunner is watching me from behind, with a grin on his face. I guess only the girls run to race… Now I feel dumb…

I turn back around and feel my face heat up. I probably look like a big idiot right now. Oh well, might as well catch up to the girls. Their feet dash across the grass running as fast they can to the pool, I'm not far behind them now. Lacey and Alli reach the gate and cheer when Rhoda, Dad and Olivia pull up next to the gate.

"Yay! We win again!" Alli says, bouncing up and down against the gate. It's not until I turn around do I see Gunner sliding his shirt off does my stomach start acting weird again. I don't understand why I mean it isn't like he's ugly or anything. He has fit body for a twelve year old. His skin is a dark tan, probably from being outside so much. His chest isn't smooth like mine either, it's has small red bumps spotting up his chest. His eyes are a mix of brown and green but the brown is more dominant, his hair is highlighted a bright blond to go with his already natural blond hair.

Before he opens his eyes again, my back is facing him. I can't bear looking, anymore. My heart races in my chest, at least no one seems to notice that I'm freaking out. They open the gate and everyone runs to the ladder to jump in the pool. One by one the girls dive in the water, I slip my foot into the water before sliding off the side into the pool. Lacey and Marie pay no attention while they splash around, Alli jumps in front of me a frown on her face.

"Why are you wearing a shirt in the pool?" She asks. I know I'm blushing now. How was I going to explain that I felt weird with it off? I mean it sounds simple enough but it just isn't that easy to explain. It's probably like the same reason why I don't want to look at Gunner right now. I just feel like I'm naked without it.

"Shush, Alli." Gunner grabs Alli lifts her in his arms. She smiles down at me.

"My brother is so strong and cute too. He looks like Jesse McCartney. Don't you think?" She asks me, I just laugh it off and Gunner takes that moment to send the girl flying into the pool with a shriek that could probably be heard in Europe. "Bubby, you can't do that when I'm not ready!"

"I can if I want too." He says pushing the water out of his way moving towards her again, she screams and hides behind Lacey. He laughs and picks up Lacey. "Like hiding is going to do you any good."

"Bubby, no! I'm not ready!" She's in the water in a flash and Gunner runs after Alli.

"Marie, help me!" She grabs for Marie but just misses by an inch; she under the water and Gunner moves on, Marie.

"Hmm, should I throw you or not?" Marie flinches, at this and glances at me for help. "I think I'll have to. It's only fair." He grins and runs for her while she runs for me. I don't know if I should save her- I mean help her or let him get her. Looking selfish and over protective isn't what I want to do but I can't overcome that need to do something. I know he wouldn't hurt her on purpose but it still bothers me. I reach out my hand out of instinct but it's already too late. She's in his arms a smile on her face while she screams. My stomach drops, all of a sudden the pool is crowded but I'm alone. I don't feel right just standing here in the pool. My height doesn't do much to help with anyone noticing that I'm here, mostly because my head is barely out of the water. Stupid pool.

Dad and Rhoda sit on top of the deck talking and playing with Olivia. Even they don't seem to notice that I'm sitting here by myself. Not like my dad really notices anything I do anyway. He doesn't care. If he cared he wouldn't have left us alone. He wouldn't have left mom to cry or for her to fall in love with another guy. He wouldn't have left us to fend for ourselves while he went to stupid bars and hung out with his friends while we had no car to get anything to eat. He wouldn't have let the electricity go off in our house and he wouldn't have let me be taken from all my friends. I hated him, I hate him-

Arms circle around my waist and pull me to a warm body behind me. I look up to see Gunner with a huge smirk on his face, I freeze. I can't believe I left myself defenseless like this! "You can't leave yourself open for an attack because I will strike!" The girls behind us giggle and cheer as I struggle to get free.

"No, get off." I say, somehow working my way to where we are facing each other. Well technically I'm looking at his chest which isn't good; my cheeks burn, he doesn't notice and is trying his best to get a good hold on me while I'm struggling to get free.

"Throw him! Throw him! Throw him!" The girls chant. My arm slips against his chest and he forces it behind my back, I'm in in arms bridal style before I realize. I can't believe he's doing this; he shouldn't be able to do this. I should be taller than him, or at least bigger than him, but he towers over me I feel like a girl in his arms and it makes me angry. Before I can say anything, I'm in the air, I feel light for just a second and then gravity decides it's time I remember what it is and I smash into the water. Good thing I had my hand over my nose. Gunner laughs when I surface after moving my hair out of my eyes; great now my hair is wet and in my face. Ugh, I really need a haircut. Oh well maybe when I'm back with mom.

"You had it coming, standing there all by yourself." I glare at him.

"I'll get you back somehow." I say, and puff out my chest. He laughs again; I probably look like a stick to him. He turns and starts swimming to the other end of the pool. Marie, Lacey and Alli glance at me.

"Help." I mouth. Lacey and Alli nod and are behind him in a flash.

"Attack!" Alli jumps on his back while Lacey grabs his arm trying to pull him in the water. "Guys help, us! We can't get him under on our own!" Marie smiles over at me and we rush in. She grabs his other arm and I go for his feet, because I'm not touching his chest again.

It's weird.,,

I grab on to one of his legs he's fighting a losing battle, he tries to fight off the girls but four is better than one. His foot slips but he grabs my shirt. "I'm not going down alone!" He barely says before he goes under the water, I don't have time to breath before I'm underwater with him as he pulls me down to the bottom of the pull. He's still holding on to my shirt. I'm half afraid he's going to try and rip it off or something or if he's going to drown me but he pulls us up before I could pull my shirt free. The girls jump and down, splashing water in my face, Gunner smirks.

"Ha-ha! We win! We got you!" Alli sings; Marie smiles up at us.

"It usually takes forever to get you under," Lacey says grinning in my direction. I guess I'm okay in her book now. Which is a good thing, I guess we will all be seeing a lot of each other now since our parents are dating.

"Good job, Ave. I'm impressed. I didn't think you had it in you to be rough." I look down at the water, it's almost splashing up in my eye from the way we've been messing around.

"Thanks," I mumble. It occurs to me to tell him that he's the first person to give me a nickname but I keep it to myself. I don't want him to think I'm lame. The sky flashes, and the crackle of thunder scatters around us the girls scream, I jump and run into Gunner's chest.

"Careful, you've give yourself brain damage or something." He grabs my shoulders and snickers. "Scared of a wittle storm Avery?"

I take back everything good I said about him, I hate this guy.

"Get off of me."

"Come on guys get out, we have to go before the storm starts" The girls whine but get out. I swim to the ladder and climb up behind Lacey, Gunner watches me and for a second before following me. I wrap my towel around my shoulders and walk out the gate. Gunner grabs his shirt and pulls it on. Good thing I won't have to deal with that anymore today. I sigh and follow Marie back to the house.

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A/N: annnnnnd end scene! I'm so so so sorry that I haven't updated this story at all and I published it on here over a year and a half ago, my sister read the first chapter and wanted to read more, she slapped me when I told her I didn't have a second chapter!So the last two days I've worked on this, I hope you like it. I plan on finishing all my stories that I put on here. So if you like them you don't have to worry. I'm just extremely good at procrastinating. Thanks to everyone that has followed the story or reviewed! I appreciate it very much! So anyway please review if you don't mind. Let me know what you think. I don't know when the next update will be but I can promise it will be sometime this month. I think I can do one chapter a week, but I'll have to see how long it will take me to type it.

Next chapter: Sleepovers, crushes? Hmmmmmm...

later!

TMi