If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that it doesn’t help to sit and play a situation over and over again in your head.― Brittainy C. Cherry
You can’t change the past, but you can shape the future with the right now.”
Senator Suites Apartments
Home to Nick Cameron, Adrianna Auditore and Rohan Sharma
Giggling, Aria-Grace watched Rohan walk off to the bathroom, looking over her shoulder she smiled at him, then leaned forward to grab his wine glass and take a healthy sip, while making sure he wasn’t looking.
The evening was going swimmingly in Aria-Grace’s book. Perfect even. She was in San Myshuno for a long weekend, visiting with her big brother at the penthouse. She still had her room here, and this wasn’t the first visit like this, and wouldn’t be the last.
Before Rohan’s pitstop, she was having the time of her life, watching movies with her big brother’s best friend. He and she had always gotten along very well.
Nick and Adrianna had been so busy learning to run the businesses their respective fathers had entrusted to them, both of them determined to shine, Nick with Cameron Law and Adrianna with a consumer-side branch of Auditore Financials, that their romance had come short, meaning they made good use of the long weekend, spending most of their time outside mealtimes in their bedroom, while Aria-Grace spent quality time with Rohan.
The highlight of her stay so far had been when they binge-watched a scary TV series. Not because of the storyline.
One scene scared Aria-Grace, she let out a tiny scream and put her hands before her eyes, so Rohan protectively put his arm around her, she buried her face in his chest. Way longer than necessary. She wasn’t a scaredy cat at all, but she was milking this big time.
It had been everything to the 16-year-old with a very secret crush on an older guy, fueled by some liquid courage from the stolen sips of wine here and there whenever Rohan wasn’t paying attention. She didn’t usually pilfer alcohol, even though it was always readily available around her, so even the little bit she had had so far was starting to affect her.
His cell phone buzzed on the coffee table, right when he returned from the bathroom break, he picked it up, glanced at it, then put it back, face down, while putting a can of Coke Zero – Aria-Grace’s favorite – on the table and opening the tab.
“Here, I got you another soda, figured you might be parched.” Rohan smiled as he sat down.
“Thank you. So sweet of you!” Aria-Grace smiled back, blushing slightly, when Rohan looked at his almost empty wine glass with arched brows, but said nothing, only refilled his glass.
“Are you … you’re not … like … seeing anyone, right?”
“You mean dating? No. I would like to, but have no time right now, when you do a residency at a hospital you become their cheap labor for everything nobody else wants to do, including extra shifts. I thought I had tomorrow off, but when Nick picked you up at the airport, I got a call to come in tomorrow for the swing shift.”
“Aww, that sucks! I thought we were all doing lunch together at that restaurant by the pier.”
“I know. We’ll have to make it dinner instead, if you want me there.”
“Oh, I want you there! Dinner it is! Look, Rohan, you know you are the hero of the entire Cameron family, for saving my dad’s life … I will never forget you saved daddy! I couldn’t imagine life without him! Man, had you not been there … ooof!”
“AG, I am no hero, I just read the signs right and applied the right measures in time.”
“Fine, be humble then. I think you are a hero. You are definitely MY hero. You’re just amazing. Always have been … you’re like … some Indian prince with magic abilities. Seriously, you’re the full deal.”
“Some prince I make, no kingdom, no subjects and barely two pennies to rub together, living in my best friend’s guest room and the only magic I have been able to impress with is making one of two decent Indian dishes, which sums up my entire culinary skill set.” smiling nervously Rohan played down Aria-Grace’s praise.
“Oh, you just had bad luck, but you are doing something about it. Now you are a doctor, and you will make it far, I know it. You are just so amazing; you’ll have your own clinic one day. Your own hospital … no, a medical center and everyone will just adore you and admire you like I do.”
Aria-Grace smiled the sweetest smile at him, before Rohan could process her words and the meaning of her smile, she leaned forward and kissed him.
Half-way through it, Rohan pulled her off himself, then jumped up.
“Aria-Grace – no no no no no! You are my best friend’s little sister! This is a huge no-no. I can’t do this to Nick especially not like this! Violates every aspect of bro-code! I owe him and your dad so much, they took me in after my grandparents died, I … am sorry, Aria-Grace, really sorry, but I just .. I can’t. I need a minute.” Rohan awkwardly folded his hands before his crotch area and ran from the room back towards the downstair bathroom again, leaving behind a shocked 16 year-old, trying to process what happened, when Rohan’s phone buzzed again.
Aria-Grace inhaled, sighed, then leaned forward to grab Rohan’s wine glass again when the phone buzzed again. Setting the glass back down, Aria-Grace took the phone, quickly looked over her shoulder, then tapped on the screen to wake it.
She found several text message blurbs on his lock screen from someone she recognized. Esmée Cameron, Aria-Grace and Nick’s 22-year-old cousin.
“Ezzy?! Why the hell is she texting Rohan?! What the …. oh my God …” Aria-Grace mumbled to herself, right when Rohan returned.
“Aria-Grace, I am sorry, I probably handled that wrong. Don’t take it the wrong …”
She jumped up, turning to him, her eyes aglow, interrupting his speech by waving his phone in front of him, then pressing it against herself.
“How in the world could you do this to me?! You and Ezzy?! ESMÉE of all people?! You reject ME, because you are doing HER?! HER?!!?!?! She is all business, all the time, like the most unapproachable human being EVER?! Like the most undatable chick, yet she is texting you shit about ‘that other night together’ and asking you to ‘call her urgently’?! She must have some serious itch if she needs you so badly that she sends you a gazillion texts in a row! I can’t believe you! I thought you were different! I thought you were special! Nice, kind, sweet! OMG! I am an idiot!”
“What? Why are you reading my messages?! Gimme my phone!” he tried to grab the phone from Aria-Grace, but she slipped out of reach, glaring at him angrily.
“You reject me with some bullshit excuse about Nick and bro-codes, but don’t worry about if he’d mind you nailing our cousin?! I mind it! You are such a LIAR! You just don’t want me! You don’t like me! ADMIT IT! But you like Ezzy?! That is just WRONG! You cannot be …. I don’t even …. SCREW YOU, ROHAN! I hate you!” Aria-Grace was heartbroken and beside herself, tossed the phone at him, which he barely managed to catch as it bounced off him, by the time he had it firmly in his grip, Aria-Grace was running up the stairs. Sobbing.
Rohan ran after her, but when he made it to her room, she had locked herself in. Knocking as gently as he could, Rohan called at the door, as low as he could so it wouldn’t draw Nick’s attention, whose bedroom was just two doors down the hall.
“Aria-Grace? Hey … can we talk about this? Please …. can you open the door?”
“FUCK OFF ROHAN, leave me alone – OR I WILL MAKE A SCENE – and you can deal with Nick then! I’ll tell him everything!” it came from the other side of the door.
“Okay, please don’t …. I’ll go. But please, let me explain. Just listen to me, one time. Please … Just for one minute, please Aria-Grace … PLEASE!” he begged.
After a tense moment of complete silence, Rohan holding his breath, the door was unlocked, and Aria-Grace appeared, her face reddened and tears still running down her cheeks, which she wiped off with the sleeves of her sweater, making her appear like a sad little girl, breaking Rohan’s heart.
“Can we go downstairs to talk?” Rohan asked, pointing at Nick’s door just down the hallway.
Aria-Grace shook her head.
“Please, AG, I don’t want Nick to hear …”
“Don’t call me AG. Only Nick gets to call me that, you lost that privilege.”
“Sorry, Aria-Grace. Okay, I don’t know where to start …”
“How about why you don’t mind screwing my cousin, but I am not good enough for you!”
“AG … sorry, I mean, Aria-Grace look, it’s not that at all. You are so much younger and …”
“BULLSHIT! FUCKIN’ BULLSHIT! Nick and Addy have been at it since they were 15. My parents had relationships at my age. Don’t give me that too young BS. Everyone says I am an old soul and mature for my age! I don’t care, NOBODY cares! My entire family ADORES you, they wouldn’t care about a few measly years! QUIT LYING!”
“Okay … sorry. It’s nothing like that. Let me try to explain … It started in the third semester of college. You know Ezzy and Ewan were there at the same time and some other cousins of Nick’s and we all hung out a lot … Ezzy and I took studying very seriously and had a few classes together …”
“How!? She is a Business Major! You did Medicine!”
“Still, some basic stuff like Math is the same in the beginning. Anyway, we studied together while the others went out to party and … we’re the same age, both workaholics, both perfectionists, both worried about whether or not we’d make it to graduation and with good marks, so … things happened. Just to silence the loneliness, take the edge off. Only a few times and it meant nothing. Casual. She’s not good at meeting people, neither am I, and we definitely are not right for each other. I want a family one day, Esmée definitely does not. So, after graduation it stopped, until well .. she had a rough time about something a few weeks ago, I had so many double-shifts and Nick and Addy had some anniversary thing, so she offered to cook dinner at her place and let me stay over. It was nice, platonic initially. Until .. it wasn’t. Just another one time thing.”
“Wow. So now you are together or what?”
“No. Ezzy doesn’t want a relationship and neither do I. I need to get through the next two years of residency first, she needs to sort out her CEO position thing. We’re not romantic, really and definitely not in love. Not at all, I swear. We are not even a good match, obviously. Just … I think we are what you would call friends with benefits. Both under a lot of stress, both kinda lonely, but no time to date and … it just worked out like this.” Rohan shrugged, blushing.
“You of all people … I would have never guessed. I am so disappointed in you. This is awful. So bad. Eww!”
Rohan’s phone rang, he looked at it, then clicked the call away. This happened two more times.
“Oh my God, answer it already!” Aria-Grace said when they were interrupted again.
“No, not now. It’s … Esmée.”
It rang again, so Rohan held the phone out for her to read the Caller ID, but he underestimated Aria-Grace. She snatched the phone from his hand and pressed the Answer button before Rohan could do anything.
“Rohan? You there?” came Ezzy’s metallic sounding voice from the speaker.
“Ahem … yeah … can I call you back?” Rohan answered to avoid this getting more awkward.
“No. Why aren’t you returning my texts or answering your goddamn phone? We have to talk! Urgently!” Esmée insisted.
“Not a good time now, I’ll call you in the morning, okay?” Rohan’s voice sounded pressing.
“No. We have to talk now. NOW, Rohan.”
“Ezzy, seriously not a good time … we have company! I can’t talk.” Rohan pressed.
“Dammit, Rohan, I am fucking pregnant!”
Aria-Grace sucked in the air audibly, yelped, dropping the phone, staring at it in shock as if it were a cockroach, an equally shocked Rohan picked it up while taking it off speakerphone, pressing it against his ear, shaking his head while listening to whatever Ezzy was saying.
“What?! What do you mean there is a possibility …? How many more were there, Esmée?!” Rohan asked.
“No! NO! No way!” Aria-Grace mumbled repeatedly, ran back into her room, slamming the door shut, locking it, sobbing into her pillows. This time, there was no talking to her again.
The next morning was awkward, Rohan hated keeping secrets from Nick, who in turn didn’t keep secrets from Adrianna, so he had no choice but to be silent, hoping Aria-Grace wouldn’t say anything either. At least not yet. Esmée had sworn Rohan to secrecy until she could figure things out.
“Where the hell is AG?! Mom and dad made me promise to make sure she didn’t skip meals, so can someone please tell me at what hour our guest of honor, Mademoiselle Cameron, will roll her lazy teen ass out of bed so I can stuff breakfast down her throat preferably before it’s already time for dinner?!” Nick ranted annoyed.
“I’ll go check on her.” Adrianna giggled at her boyfriend’s rant as she went upstairs.
“Seriously man, I love my little sis, absolutely adore the shit out of her, but sometimes it is just like she reverted back to toddler as soon as she hit the teens. Then another minute she is so mature that you feel like you are talking to someone twice your age. You never know what you are gonna get, every new day is a surprise, some good and some not so much. You’re lucky you are an only child.” Nick told Rohan.
Rohan forced laughter, hoping it would look and sound convincing.
“Ha – yeah …”
They heard fast clicking of Adrianna’s heels on the stairs she came running back to the kitchen, her voice urgent
“Nick! Aria-Grace is gone!”
“What? What do you mean, gone? Gone where?” Nick wondered confused, but slightly alarmed.
“I don’t know, Nick. GONE. She left. Her bags are gone too. She left you a note … I didn’t read it, as it was addressed to you.”
He took the note and unfolded the pink paper, Aria-Grace’s signature color, and all saw her girly handwriting, reading ‘To Nick’ on the back, while he read over it.
“What in the world is this BS now?! Says here not to worry and that she went to the airport to fly back home! WTH?! She’s never gone home early, on the contrary, I usually have to drag her on that plane back home and superglue her to the seat. What is she thinking, she is an unaccompanied minor, she can’t just get on planes without an adult handing her over to airline personnel at the gate!?! She’s flown alone many times and knows the drill! This is gonna be a disaster, mom and dad won’t like this shit, not one bit! They’ll think I did something to her. Agh, I’ll call her. Let’s hope she came to her senses and sits there on some bench waiting for me to come get her, and that police didn’t pick her up yet and called our parents, or I am a dead man walking! When I get my hands on that girl, she will get a spanking for scaring the shit out of me, right there in public, I don’t care how old she is or if she tells mom and dad or if I get arrested for it, she won’t be able to sit for days, unless she can give me a REALLY good reason for her bullshit! Like I said, you never know what you get with her. I almost guarantee you there is some crush she wants to get back to, ‘cute boy’ evidently now outranks me, that little traitor. Hormones, seriously! They say parenting is hard, well, being a good big brother isn’t exactly a piece of cake either! Goddamn it, AG!” Nick wadded up the paper angrily and launched it across the room all the way over to the dining area.
“Nick, mio caro, please calm down, just relax. I am sure she is just fine, she is a clever girl, let’s go look for her. I’ll get the car. You call her and see if you can find out more, then come downstairs, I’ll be out front for when you are ready.” Adrianna said in a calming voice, then grabbed her bag, keys and coat and left.
Rohan wanted to sink into the ground.