I feel warmth on my face and chest. I slowly open my eyes. I'm looking at the sky and clouds. I sit up. Right. I forgot I slept outside. Bruno is on his back, sprawled out as far as his short arms and legs can go. I crawl over and lay my head on his chest. I have butterflies in my stomach. The good kind. The ones you get when you're in love and happy. He twitches, and I know any minute he's going to wake up. I get up quietly, and crawl to the other side of him. I see his arm move, than his hand move around, looking for me. I cover my mouth so I don't laugh out loud. He sits up, and when he turns his head, I crawl the opposite direction. He whips around and sees me, and I can't contain my laughter. He grabs me and throws me on the blanket. He kneels on my legs, and pins my arms above my head with one hand, and with the other, he starts tickling me. I scream and laugh. "Okay! Bruno stop!" I manage to scream out. He laughs and keeps doing it. I can't fight him from laughing so hard. He finally stops and kisses my neck. "Don't scare me like that." he says. "I scared you?" I ask, confused. He nods. "My fear is waking up with you not next to me." I trace his bottom lip. "That'll never happen." I whisper. "It's happened once before." he says, quietly. My heart drops a little. "I'm sorry." I say sincerely, thinking back to the day I left Eric's apartment, and ran away here. He kisses me, than pulls me by my arms. "Come on, I'll make you breakfast." he says. I stifle a laugh. "What are you gonna make me?" "Well, you have a couple of choices. Either a killer ass bowl of cereal, or mouthwatering poptart." he says, with a face that makes what he's saying sound like a feast. "I don't eat breakfast." I tell him, and he busts out laughing. We walk in the house, and smell pancakes, bacon, eggs and more. Thank god! Cause I really do eat breakfast. Ahmity is putting food on the plates when we stroll in the kitchen. Her hair is done. Wavy like always, but gorgeous none the less. She's dressed in a purple baby doll top, with dark skinny jeans and black flats. I look down at me, and feel really bummy. She smiles, and it takes all I have in me not to cry from how much her smile looks like Papi's. She pinches my cheeks. "Dormistes bien hermanita?" she asks. My face feels warm. I look at Bruno and say "Claro que si." She laughs, and goes to the fridge. Bruno is halfway done with his plate, and I haven't even touched mine. I keep staring at him. He stops shoveling food in and looks at me. "What?" he asks, with a mouthful of eggs. I shake my head, with a smirk on my face. He shrugs and goes back at it. I try to eat, but I can't. The butterflies won't let me. I pick at the food. "Babe, if you're not gonna eat that..." he reaches over and takes my plate. "Jeez, it's a good thing I told you I was done." I say, sarcastically. He blows me a kiss. Ahmity sits down and eats her breakfast. I swallow. I want to ask her the many questions I have, but I don't know how to go about it. She finishes her food, and takes all our dishes to the sink and washes them. The diswasher is right next to her, but that's not how we were raised. Mami hates dishwashers. I watch her, and it's feels really weird to see her doing things normally. Bruno stretches, rubbing his stomach. "That was delicious Ahm." he says, with a big smile on his face. She rubs his head. I look at her, and I guess she could tell by my face, that I want to ask her so bad. "Take a shower, get ready, y despues, we'll talk" she says. I do what she says, and make my way upstairs to take a shower. Bruno follows. When I get to the bathroom, I turn around. "What?" he says. "What are you doing?" I ask. His eyes look from left to right. "Uhhh, taking a shower?" he says, raising his eyebrows. "I'm taking a shower." I say. He nods. "Yeah...so?" "You going first?" I ask. He shakes his head, smiling. I make a confused face. He puts his hands on my waist and pulls me towards him. Realization sets in. "No." I say. He holds me tighter. "Why not?!" I simply shake my head. "Lena, we've made love I don't know how many times, it's just a shower." he says. The fact that he said 'made love' and not 'sex' makes me smile. "I don't want you to see me naked." I say. He laughs. "I've already seen you naked." Damn it. "I don't want to see you naked." I try. His jaw drops, and I bust out laughing. I kiss his nose. "You know I'm kidding, but it's still a no." I say. "And if I throw you in there, you won't have a choice." He says. By the look in his eye, he's totally serious. "You'll never do it." I say. Wrong words. He picks me up and throws me over his shoulder. "Bruno!" I punch him and kick my legs, but as usual, it does no good. I don't know how he manages to turn the water on with me on him, but he does, cause the next thing I know, I'm getting soaked by the shower head, with my clothes on. He laughs, and I throw water in his face. He grabs me and holds me directly under the water. I gasp and start choking. He pulls me back. "Lena, you okay?" he asks, worried. I push him and he falls, the water soaking him. I bust out laughing, until he pulls my leg and I fall on top of him. He pushes back the wet hair from my face, and kisses me. He pulls my shirt up to take it off. "You're not sneaky." I tell him. "Baby! Your clothes are soaked, I'm not trying to be sneaky." he says, but he has a smirk on his face, and his eyes are twinkling. "Well, than these gotta go too." I say, and unbutton his pants. He smiles and kisses me again.
* * * *
Bruno wraps the towel around me and pulls me close to him. He kisses the top of my head. "Best shower I ever had in my life." he says. I hit him, and we both laugh. I walk to Ahm's room, to get dressed. Bruno follows. Of course he gets done before me. When I sit down to put my make up on, he walks up behind me and pulls my hand down. "Why do you put that stuff on your face?" he asks. "Cause I look scary if I don't." I tell him. He touches my cheek. "You look more beautiful without it." he says. My face gets red. "I don't feel comfortable without make up on." I tell him. "Why?" he asks. I shrug. "I'm plain as it is, make up is the only way I don't look it, so I don't feel...plain, if that makes sense?" I tell him. He shakes his head. "Lena, you're far from plain. I just think you try to hide who you really are behind that stuff. You're beautiful." I don't say anything. I look down and say under my breath, "No i'm not." He backs away from me, rubbing the back of his head. "You believed your dad, why don't you believe me?" he says, quietly. Pain hits my heart when I hear those words. I turn to look at him. He has his head down, with his hands in his pockets. Tears sting my eyes. I get up and lift his chin. His eyes are big, and he looks hurt. "What am I supposed to say? I ask. I kiss him lightly. He touches my face. "Nothing." he says, and kisses my cheek. I turn around and start to go back to the mirror, but stop. I close my eyes tight, and as hard as it is, I put away my make up and my straightener. I can already feel my hair getting poofy and curly from air drying. "For you, okay?" I tell him, and a big grin creeps across his face. He picks me up and kisses me. He rubs his nose with mine. "I love you." he says. "I love you more." I say. "Lena, Brunito! What the hell are you guys doing, it's been like 2 hours!" I hear from downstairs. I start laughing and Bruno puts me down. He takes my hand, and I follow him down the stairs.
Ahmity is on the couch. Bruno sits, but I stand there, hesitating. Ahmity stares at me. I clear my throat. "Um, maybe we should sit outside or something." Bruno says. My sweet Bruno. He puts his hands on my waist, and moves me towards the front door. Ahm looks at us weird, but follows. We walk to the backyard. She stands for a minute, letting the breeze blow back her wavy hair. She closes her eyes, and I see a small smile on her face. She turns around and sits in the chair. She stares at me. Her eyes look kind of sad. "Mama's...You got really skinny." she says. I rub my arm, looking down. I know of this, she doesn't have to remind me. I know I don't look 'healthy skinny'. I look 'sick skinny'. Bruno strokes my hair. "I know Hermana..." I say, plainly. She sighs. "I always knew he was crazy, but I never thought I would be one of the ones to be affected by his destructive path." she starts. "I was only out of the hospital for about a week and a half, when he stopped taking his medication. I saw the disease slowly taking him over, but I thought if I didn't acknowledge it, it would somehow magically go away. You never saw it. How could you when you were the only thing that would make him happy? When you were around, he was the same sweet caring Brendan. But when you went to work, I could see and feel the darkness inside him." I get chills and a shiver runs through me. Bruno protectively pulls me in his arms. "I remember him pacing back and forth through the whole house, waiting for you to get home. One day I got up, by myself and walked to the kitchen. He was sitting at the table, looking out of the window. I caught him at a bad time. I managed to tell him excitedly that my leg muscles were getting stronger and I could walk without any help. The only thing I remember after that, was my head hitting the kitchen floor." My eyes blur with tears from the anger that instantly fills me. If I didn't want to kill him before, I want to even more now. "By the first month home, I could walk almost perfectly, and my speech was like it was never gone at all. But everyday he just got worse and the abuse was almost unbearable. I was too afraid to say anything, to anybody. One day I kind of relapsed, and I was bed ridden again. He never touched me. He left me alone and never came by me. I don't know why, cause helplessness was what he thrived on. But if it got him to stay away from me, I was going to use it to the max. I felt horrible keeping it from you hermanita, but I was afraid if anybody else knew, it would somehow get back to him, and faking being handicapped was my only defense." I have my mouth covered, and tears running down my face. I thought I had it bad, when this whole time I was away, my sister was forced to be inprisoned in her own body, just to protect herself. I feel sick. "Adrian caught me one day when Brendan wasn't home. I broke down and told him everything. I couldn't keep it in anymore. I remember he just held me and told me everything was going to be okay. He wasn't going to leave me." Her jaw tightens. "But he lied." she says, under her breath. She stays quiet for a minute, than shakes it off. "When you left, he got bad. Real bad. He didn't know what to do. He closed up, and didn't talk to anybody. But when he found out where you really were...." My body stiffens up and so does Bruno's. "Something in him snapped. He got dilusional, he started talking crazy, saying he was gonna kill himself. Adrian couldn't handle him. They fought almost everyday. He made himself believe you were really in Brooklyn with Mami. Whenever he called you, Adrian tried his hardest to shield you from him. That's why he said not to come home. We knew what would happen if you did." She stares off, and I can't tell what she's thinking. I don't say anything. I let her continue. "They got into it real bad one night. Brendan took all of his bottled up anger out on Adrian.....and Adrian--" Her voice cracks and I can see how hard she's trying not to cry. She clears her throat. "Adrian left." She angrily wipes away a single tear that fell from her eye. "I was alone, and everyday I feared that Brendan would lose it and take it out on me since it was only the two of us, but thank God he never did." I can't take it. I get up and hug her. She squeezes me tight. I cry in her hair. "I'm so sorry mama's...I'm so so sorry." I tell her. "Ya se Hermanita, no es tu culpa, ya no llores." She wipes away my tears. She smiles through her pain. She still remains one of the strongest women I know, and despite her not being in my life for 5 years, I still look up to her and I love her more than life itself. "So, he never did anything right?" I asked, concerned. She shakes her head. "Nothing happened until the day he left, and returned....with you." She says. I feel dread and my heart feels heavy. "I don't think I need to recap that part of the story." she says. I control my tears. I take a shaky breath in. "What happened after I got away? Where did you go? How long were you there? How did you get away?" The questions I've been holding in for so long, all fly out at once. She laughs lightly. "I got away the same way you did. I ran for the hills!" She says, with a smile. "I went to uhm....I went to our cottage." she says. What the hell?! They have a cottage too?! "You have a cottage too?" I can't help asking. She nods. "I knew it was the one place he would never find me. He doesn't know where it is." she says. "I had it built a long time ago. For a very special reason." I listen, anxiously. "Even though I ran away, I never stopped loving and thinking of my family. I thought about you guys everyday. Going from our small, intimate house, to a mansion is a big change and even though the house is beautiful, it didn't feel like home. The cottage did. It was my home, and in the beginning, I spent more time there, than at the house. Papi has a headstone there...." she says. She puts her head down and I see her shoulders shaking. I hear her breath come out sharp and her tears just flow out like a river. She covers her face and sobs. I hold her and we rock back and forth, crying our life out. After a couple of minutes, she calms down enough to finish. "I knew you would wait for me." She says. "How?" Bruno's voice makes us both snap out of our little world, and we turn our heads to look at him. "Because, I left her once and that was too many times." She says, the exact same thing I told him a day earlier. "iBelieve she'll always come back to me." I say. "iBelieve she'll always wait for me." She says. There's not a word to describe the love I feel for her. There's no one else out there like her, and I'm blessed that God made her my sister. I never want her out of my life again. I squeeze her with everything I have. "So are we safe to say this nightmare is over?" Bruno asks. We both laugh. "Yes..it is." Ahmity says. Bruno stands up. "Okay, sooo, can I have my Lena back now?" he asks with a smile. Ahmity tightens her grip. "Excuse me, but she's my Lena..." Oh jeez. He laughs. "That's funny.." He grabs my arm and pulls, but Ahmity pulls back. Great, I'm a rubber band...Terrific! Bruno grabs me by my waist and pulls me as hard as he can. I come flying out of my sisters grasp and I scream while Bruno keeps laughing. Ahmity busts out laughing too, while I'm just hanging upside down over Bruno's shoulder, NOT laughing. "I'm glad you both think this is funny and all...But I would really love it if the blood wasn't all rushed to my head." I say. "Sorry baby." he says, and put me down. He fixes my hair, than kisses the top of my head. "I don't even want to talk about that person or that situation ever again. From this day foreward, that part of my life is done and over with, and he is dead to me. I'm moving on." I say, to the both of them. Ahmity links her arm with mine. "I couldn't of said it better myself."
* * * *
I hang up the phone, my ear still ringing from Preeti's screams. "I think she took that calmly." I say, laughing. Ahmity laughs too. Bruno is looking at his phone, with a concentrated face. "Everything okay over there?" Ahmity asks. He doesn't look up. "Bruno?" I say. He snaps his head up. "Huh?" I furrow my eyebrows. "You okay?" I ask and sit next to him. He shoves his phone in his pocket. "Yeah!" He puts his arm around me and gives me a kiss. The breeze blows his curls. He looks distracted. "What's the matter?" I say, knowing him well enough. He shakes his head. "Nothing you need to be worried about baby." I stare at him with a 'really?' face. He sighs. "Lena, just leave it alone." he says, sounding a tad irritated. "Okay." I say, not wanting to fight with him. My phone vibrates in my pocket. Phred. I answer. "Hey Phred." I say. Bruno snaps his head around. He grabs the phone out of my hand before he has a chance to say anything. "What the fuck Preesh?............ I'll handle it.." he says and hangs up. "What is going on?" I ask him. "They..just want me home. That's all." He says. "They want you home, or they NEED you home?" I ask, staring at him intently. He doesn't answer me. "BRUNO!" "LENA I FUCKIN TOLD YOU TO LEAVE IT ALONE!" he yells, and gets up. Ahmity looks at me, shocked. I sigh. I know it has to do with something important otherwise he wouldn't care about me asking. He's sitting on the front porch. I sit next to him, rubbing his shoulder. He holds my hand. "I'm sorry." he says, kissing my fingers. I touch his cheek. "What's going on?" I feel like I ask him that question a lot. He plays with my hand. "Nothing really, they're just gonna drop me from the label if I don't get home by tomorrow." he says, nonchalantly. The words smack me in the face and I almost don't know how to react. He covers my mouth before I have a chance to scream. "Please Lena...This is why I told you to leave it alone. I knew you were gonna get all worked up and yell." He says. "How can I not?" I say, muffled from under his hand. He uncovers it. "BRUNO WHA---" He covers it back up again. I roll my eyes and don't say a word. He takes his hand away. "Were you even gonna tell me?" I ask. He looks down, than shakes his head. "Why?" I ask, feeling a little hurt. He leans his chin in his hand. "I didn't want to make you any more stressed. You're going through enough right now, the last thing you need is something else to worry about." He says. "I don't care what I'm going through, if it has something to do with you or your music, it's not only important to you, it's important to me and I want to be by your side through it all!" He squeezes my hand. "You don't need to get caught up in that kind of world." he says. I pull my hand back. I hate feeling like he's shutting me out of 'that world', when that world is a part of him. He sighs again. "If you're involved enough, certain people will twist things or everybody will start to see and treat you different, and it'll only be because of me." he says. "I don't want that for you. I want you to be normal." he says. "You're not normal Bruno, and if I'm with you, than neither am I." I say. He puts his head down. "I'll go pack your stuff." I say, and walk away. He doesn't object or call after me. He knows there's no changing my mind. I walk in the house and Ahmity asks me what happened. I tell her, and she kind of smirks. "So, were going to L.A.?" she asks. A smile slowly creeps across my face. "How fast can you pack?" I ask her. She bolts out of the chair and I start laughing at how fast she's running up the stairs.
* * * *
I lean back in my seat. I've been on so many plane rides in this past year than in my entire life, and I've got the procedure down pat. Ahmity is bouncing in her seat. My heart swells with joy to see her smiling and so excited. I know we both closed that chapter in our lives, and are moving on to bigger and better things. Maybe L.A. will be a new beginning for more than just Bruno. "You told them, right?" I ask Bruno. He rolls his eyes. "Yes Lena, they are aware." he says, annoyed. I hide my smile, and grab his hand. He squeezes and I know he's not really mad. The plane ride seems to short, and before I know it, we've landed, grabbed our luggage and are walking through the exit doors of the airport. I breathe in the air, and as crazy as it sounds, the air here is different. I missed it. Bruno looks around, his eyebrows raised. "Where the hell?.." As soon as the words leave is mouth, I hear tires squeeling and I see an all too familiar car screech it's way up the curb. The smile that plays across my face is so huge, I'm not even going to pretend to hide it. Dreadlocks whip their way out of the front seat. "Yo, it wasn't my fault I'm late, E was talking my ear off about nonsense and I tried...." Bruno laughs. "Shut up Dawg, YOU talking my ear off right now!" he says. Me and Phred both laugh. He walks towards me, and pulls me into a tight hug. I squeeze him back. "Don't ever scare me like that again." he says, quietly. "I'm sorry." I whisper. Bruno clears his throat and me and Phred look at him. He's standing there, looking uncomfortable. "Oh, My bad moi goi, I see you don't want me all over your girl and what not." he says. Bruno nods. "Well, than I guess this will really get your knickers in a twist." Phred picks me up and spins me around. I bust out laughing cause I feel Bruno grab me by my waist and pull me away. Phred is laughing hysterically. Bruno has a small smile on his face but he has his arms around me, like Phredley is going to steal me away or something. I kiss Bruno to make him feel better. It feels good to see them together. Back to how it was before my life turned into a nightmare. I look over at Ahmity cause she's unusually quiet. She's staring at Phred. I see her eyes twinkling and her cheeks are pink. I smirk and say "Phredley, this is my sister Ahmity, Mama's, this is Phred." He looks in her direction and freezes. She waves awkwardly. It's so hard to keep in my laugh, knowing she's the complete opposite when it comes to guys. She actually looks...shy. He walks up to her and takes her hand. He brings it up to his lips and kisses it softly. I bury my face in Bruno's chest. He puts his arms around me. He's shaking up and down like I am from keeping in our laughter. After a minute, I feel like I can look without bursting. They're standing next to each other, having a conversation. From the looks of it, a really deep one. Bruno puts his arm around me and we both watch them. "My little Phredley's growing up!" Bruno says, pretending to cry. I pat his head. "It's okay honey, We knew this day was coming." The both look over at us and Phred says "You guys are not the least bit funny." "At all." Ahmity chimes in. "I!.........am hilarious!" Bruno says, putting his hand to his chest. Phred pushes him. "Can we get out of this airport please?" I say, pleading. The guys take the suitcases and put them in the trunk. I smile as I walk up to Ahmity. "What?" she says. "What do you mean what?!" I say. She raises her eyebrows. "Your face was red!" I say. She touches her cheek. "It's hot out here." she says. "You live in Miami!" I practically yell. Before she has a chance to say anything back, Bruno says, "Ladies, ready?" I practically jump in Bruno's arms. He kisses me. "Is that all you guys do?" I hear Phred say. "No, sometimes we do this too." Bruno says, and when he kisses me, I feel his tongue slip in my mouth. I laugh and push him. "Stop acting like a teenager." I tell him. He makes a face. "I am a teenager! The fuck?" He says, following me to the car. He gets in the drivers side and I purposely slip in the front passenger. Ahmity glares at me, and I blow her a kiss. The whole way to Bruno's apartment, all that comes from the backseat is giggling and laughing. I smile, knowing how she feels. The giddiness, the butterflies. I take Bruno's hand and kiss it. He gives me a loving smile. After a long drive, he pulls up to his apartment. It seems like it's been years since I've seen it. I only stayed here for a little over 2 in a half weeks, but it instantly became home. Phred opens the door for Ahmity. I look at Bruno with my eyebrows furrowed. He makes a face. "Your arms aren't broken." he says. My jaw drops and he runs, laughing. "I'm sorry babe, next time I'll open it for you, I'll even roll out a little red carpet for you to walk on." he says, kissing me. I laugh. "Yeah! You better, that's the way it should be." I say, pushing him. They get the bags out, and we walk up the stairs. I get a little jittery as the familiarity brings back all kinds of memories. It gets more intense when Bruno opens the door. I have an anxious feeling in my chest for some reason. The bad kind. "Baby, what's wrong?" he asks, seeing my face and knowing me too well. "I don't know...I have a funny feeling." I say. He rubs my back. "Maybe it's from everything that's happened and it's just catching up to you." he says. That makes sense. "Yeah, you're probably right." I say. "You want your suitcase in your room?" I ask him. "Yes babe." he says. I drag his big heavy suitcase to his bedroom. I open the door, and someone is on his bed. I drop the suitcase and it lands with a loud thud on the hardwood floor. "Hello Lena." Claudia says, with a smile on her face........