The ride home was rough, and Ben and I kept being pushed closer together, as we went through many sharp turns. I became frustrated, as we were both wet, and our sticky clothes clung together.
"Here we are. Young man, will you have the pleasure of going with the beautiful Elizabeth, or will you need a separate ride home?" said the driver. Before I could protest, he quickly jumped out of the taxi and said, "Thanks for the ride!" and slammed the door shut. "Well, hurry! You're getting even more wet than you already are!" I had already reached the stairs to my home before he had finished saying that. I immediately dropped my bags and said, "And who said you could stay over?" suddenly, the door from behind me was pulled open.
"Oh, you must be Ben!" said the mistress. "I've been waiting to see you for a long time! And why are you two so wet? Oh, Lizzy sweetie, come in and dry yourself."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. 'Sweetie'?
"Mistress, I'm back. And yes, this is Ben."
"Oh, dear, why are you calling me that? Never mind, let's go in. Elizabeth, your new father is waiting for you." Now I knew the reason why she had just said those things. She was acting nice just to be on these people's good side. But why? What was so special about them that the mistress acted this way?
As I walked into our large lounge, I realised the reason immediately. Ben's father was very old, and looked weak. He also looked incredibly rich. The mistress wanted to marry him because he was rich, and he would die soon.
I bowed politely, and said, "Good afternoon. It's a bit gloomy today; would you like a cup of coffee?"
"Go and get changed first. Ben, I don't have a spare shirt. You can just be topless for now, unless you want to wear one of Ms Jeong's shirts." Ben shook his head and took his shirt off, in front of everyone. I could see the distinct shape of every muscle, and I could barely take my eyes off him. When I finally did, I realised that he was staring at me. I blushed, and said, "Well, I'll go and have a shower and get changed first." I rushed to the bathroom. What was I thinking? I shook my head and locked the bathroom door; just in case someone somehow forgot that I was in here having a shower.
The water dribbled into my hair, then down my cheeks and chin, and flowed to the rest of my body. I stood in the shower for a while, thinking, before turning the water off and coming out. There was vapour on the mirror, but the rain had stopped and there was a slight breeze coming in through the bathroom window. I quickly dried my hair and changed into new clothes.
As soon as I stepped out of the bathroom, I banged head-to-head with the mistress. Without looking at her face, I bowed while sending her my apologies. While running to my room, I lost balance in my feet and fell. While doing so, I banged my head against the corner of the wall. The mistress ignored me, while Ben and his father came charging up to me, making enough sound to be compared to a herd of elephants. My head ached, but I said, "Ouc- It's okay. I'm okay," I said.
"Ben, help her get to her room, and make sure she gets some sleep," said Ben's father. At that moment, I wished that I could meet my real father, of whom we had lost contact with when I was around the age of five. I had very vague memories of my father, and could always remember him fighting with the mistress. As soon as he had left, I was demanded to call my once loving mother 'mistress'.
Ben followed his father's commands, and sat by my side until I fell asleep. Well, at least he thought I would be asleep. It was impossible for me to sleep, as he hadn't showered yet, and the scent of rain filled the room. Whenever I smelt this in the morning, I would wake up. This happened often during the night. I couldn't open the window, as it smelled of rain outside too. No matter what I did, I couldn't make the smell just disappear. I decided that pretending to sleep was the best way to get Ben out of my room. He said, "Goodnight" and left me. 'Thank goodness...It's about time he left,' I thought to myself. Soon after, I felt my eyes droop, and I saw and heard nothing.
"Lizard, wake up! Are you still not listening to me? WAKE UP!" A familiar tune began to play, and I recognised it as my alarm clock. I missed the sleep button three times, so I just grabbed the whole machine and threw it onto the floor. I could hear the batteries roll out, as well as long, heavy thuds along the ground.
"Who is it?" I carelessly yelled.
"It is Eric, Ben's father."
"Come in," I said, in a more polite tone. I evened my hair out using my fingers as a comb, and sat patiently on the bed.
"Good morning, sir."
"Please, call me Eric." I was glad that he had not told me to call him 'Dad'. I had always wanted to save that name for my real father, for when I would meet him again.
"I'm sorry if I woke you up, but I heard your alarm go off..."
"It's okay. How may I help you at this early time in the morning?"
"It's about my marriage with your mother...I wanted to know if it was alright with you." What a stupid question. 'Do you think that I would be okay with it? Don't you care that my father mysteriously disappeared? Do you think that I even wanted a brother?' were the things that I wanted to yell in his face. Instead, I said, "Of course. I would be honoured to be your step-daughter. Although I may need to get used to having a brother the same age as me, I think it would be fine."
"About that...Ben may be different to what you think..."
"Ben's a really great person. He's been nice to me," I said. Eric sighed and decided that it was time for him to go. He said, "Come down and eat breakfast."
As soon as he left, I closed the door and sat, dumbfounded. I had just realised that I had said that it was okay to go along with the marriage. I put my head under the blanket and screamed, as loudly as I could, before dressing and going downstairs.
At the table, Ben, Eric and the mistress were all seated and were waiting for me. I bowed and said to nobody in particular, "Good morning. Did you sleep well?" Ben and Eric nodded their heads and began to eat. The breakfast was already set out; two fried eggs as eyes and a large piece of bacon as mouths. A typical Australian breakfast; only, we weren't (technically) Australian. I saw Ben eyeing our photos on the wall. There was not a single one of my father, who had abandoned me with the mistress. However, I did find a note saying, "Dear Lizard. I know you'll be really disappointed, but I've left a cute teddy bear to make up for it. Daddy has to go now, because Mummy doesn't like me anymore. From Daddy." I had kept the bear close to me at all times from then on did not know the meaning of the letter until around Year 3. When I had found out, I had wanted him to come back, saying that I loved him. Wasn't I good enough? Was I a bad daughter?
"Both of you get off here, right?" said Eric. "Have a great day at school. Oh! Ben, come give Daddy a big kiss."
"Oh, Dad..." Ben complained. Eric gave him a baleful look, and Ben quickly reached over. His lips touched the old man's cheeks.
"There...done. Let's go, Liz," he said. I had to run to catch up with him.
While I was walking down the corridor, I bumped into Peter.
"Oh my God! What is that big bump on your head? And why did I see you get off the same car as Ben earlier this morning?" he asked.
"His Dad and the mistress are getting married, remember?" I answered calmly. "Why are you so curious? It's just one small car ride...I didn't get hurt. Why so worried over nothing?"
"Look...I've been hearing some things about him. At his last school, he burnt the whole cafeteria down! Now that he has you under his control...Look. Just be careful around that guy, okay?"
"Sure." It had been a while, and when Peter said something about others, he was usually right. On this occasion, he seemed very wrong to me. I ignored my mind, and turned to Rossie, who had appeared out of nowhere.
"Hey, Rossie! I can't believe we have double Biology first up!! Couldn't they at least let us have a spare or something? It's Friday morning, I groaned.
"Lighten up, Liz. We had two spares after that, so we can go down and have a coffee. You don't look as if you slept too well. Did anything happen last night?" I shook my head, unwilling to fill her in on the details.
"I just slept late, that's all. Let's go." I waved goodbye to Peter, and walked towards the science labs. Something seemed wrong, but I couldn't quite place what.
After the long and boring lesson, I marched out into the corridor, arm-in-arm with Rossie. I suddenly got an energy boost, knowing that we had no lessons until 1 o'clock. We dumped our books into our locker and ran out of the school grounds before anyone could say anything to us. It was something that everyone who was a someone did, and the principal knew it. He caught some people out occasionally, but the most he ever told us was to pick up one lousy piece of rubbish. However, just with that, our school was spotless.
"Hey Rossie! Please can you come with me to K-Mart? Who cares that we're in our uniform! Just so long as you're with me, you're fine! It's just for a minute..." I begged.
"Oh, alright. But you have to be really quick, okay? And why do you need to go there anyway?" said Rossie.
"Oh...just to buy Peter's birthday presents..." I said, trying to keep any laughter from entering my voice. Rossie had forgotten all about Peter birthday; I could tell by her expression.
"It's okay...Don't worry about it. You can just borrow some of my money if you don't have any..." Rossie shook her head and said, "No, I mean that I forgot it's also Michael's birthday, too." Now was the time for me to be surprised, and I just realised that I had never been told, nor asked, when Michael's birthday was.
"Geez...I said it's okay. I have a tonne of money on me, so there's no need to worry over that. They're both turning sixteen, right? Wow...they're like twins!"
"Yeah...and thanks," replied Rossie. Together, during the short time in which we had, we managed to find a 2006 FIFA World Cup soccer ball for Peter and a new Mp3 Player for Michael. He was always complaining about not having anything to do on his long rides to school, and soccer was just about the only thing Peter talked about during school. On the way back to school, we bought two passionfruit green teas to drink.
By the time we got back, there were already many parties taking place in almost every classroom, and teachers could not get the students to clam down, so they just went along with it. Echoing through the hallway, I could hear hundreds of students singing the Happy Birthday Song to Michael and Peter. I wondered where Ben was, but decided to leave those thoughts aside, as Peter and Michael came out of different rooms simultaneously. They ran up and gave me and Rossie long hugs in front of everyone, which made us blush.
"Happy birthday!" I said.
"I really hope you like our presents...Sorry we couldn't get you anything better," said Rossie.
"Oh, it's okay...This is what I've always wanted, anyway!" exclaimed Peter.
"Same with me...Now I won't be half as bored on the way here to school," said Michael. They beamed, and we could practically see them glowing.
"So what are you gonna do? Are you going to throw a surprise party? Or will you take us to L.A.? Maybe...No way...Don't tell me you haven't prepared anything?" said Peter, with a grin on his face.
"Umm...umm...of course we have! Just that it's going to be a year late!" I joked. "Let's meet up at my place after school. Oh! I know, we'll go and watch Harry Potter: The Order of the Phoenix...It's not actually meant to be out until 2 February next year, but we can get a private screening maybe...I don't know...tomorrow?" I said, with a cheesy grin on my face. Their eyes were wide and they looked like goldfish, with their mouth hanging out. "You know, I've been trying so hard just to be able to see it so early, since I know how much you guys love the books. Oh, and the actors from it are going to watch it with us. Exciting, eh?" I said.
"Oh Liz, I love you so much!" Without warning, all three of them crowded around me and gave me a hug. I felt my shoulders dampen, and realised that someone was crying. The next thing I felt was warm liquid near my stomach. I thought that it was just the passionfruit green teas which had spilt, but when I looked down, I saw something even worse; a deep, dark red. I pulled away from their grasps, and screamed. I couldn't see anything but the knife sticking out of Michael's stomach; I couldn't hear anything but Michael's last words, "Oh Liz, I love you so much!"; I couldn't feel anything but Michael's blood. I felt faint and light-headed. The next second, all I knew was that I was lying on the ground.