From up above came a heavy whirring sound. Jon Ward, Mark’s father, was up in a large tree that loomed threateningly over his house. He had hoisted himself high up in its branches and started cutting off the branches with a small two-handed chainsaw.
Mark had decided to bring his friends home after school and the lot of them gawked upwards, watching in amazement as Jon maneuvered skillfully through the branches using nothing but a rope that he had tied around the trees trunk. Whenever it looked like a branch would fall and hit the house it didn’t, Jon had tied down the branches he had cut to the trunk of the tree before hand and whenever the branch would give it would swing down, harmlessly smacking against the trunk of the tree before he would lower it safely to the ground.
“Mark!” his father called up to him. “Tie that crimp to the rope so I can pull it up.”
Mark, listening to his father, tied what looked like spiked shoe attachments to the rope and Jon pulled them towards himself.
“Go inside.” Jon yelled down to his son and friends. “Your mother is preparing food.”
Listening to him, the group made their way into the house. Emily, Marks best friend since childhood stared up at Jon for a little while longer before following her friends inside. Emily had always had a small crush on Jon, ever since she was younger, and he saved her from drowning.
When she was younger, the wards had taken her, her mother and baby sister camping to Okanagan lake when her father was away on leave. Mark was so happy that Emily was coming, he was bouncing around their driveway the entire time their parents packed the van full of camping gear.
On the second day of the trip Emily drowned. She loved the water. Even as a kid she felt more alive whenever she was swimming, ignoring her mother’s warnings she waded into the water.
It was a cold morning and Emily had just eaten breakfast. Her mother had told her to wait at least 45 minutes after eating before she went swimming, and to always stretch, but she didn’t listen. She hadn’t swum too far out, only 5, maybe 10 meters away from shore. Emily was standing on the tips of her toes when the pain seared through the right side of her abdomen, grasping at the pain with both her hands Emily tried her best not to hunch over, the water already at her chin.
Slowly tiptoeing her way back to shore the water had receded and was now just below her neck when her right calf seized up and buckled under her, the weight of her body pulling her under the water. It was only for a brief second, but that’s all nature needed to fill her lungs with water. Emily’s body began to wail, she had lost her footing, her one good foot kept slipping on her large mossy rocks under her.
Everyone was busy with their duties. Mark was helping his father clean the fire pit, his mother was making sure the food was put away safely and Emily’s mother was tending to her baby sister. Almost no one heard Emily when her lungs managed to get one full breath of air allowing her to let out one small scream before being muffled by the water.
Jon, turning his head saw Emily trashing about in the water. She wasn’t too far out, but clearly, she wasn’t able to keep herself afloat. Without missing a beat, he ran into the water ignoring everything, even the expensive cellphone in his pocket. It wasn’t that deep for him, only up to his belly, but Emily was a small fragile child.
Scared and out of breath, Emily thought she was going to die. Just when her body was about to give as water rushed in to fill her lungs once more she felt large powerful arms wrap around her waist, pulling her to the surface. The sun was blinding, and she could feel the large arms that were gripping her tightly had forced the water out of her lunged. Coughing and wheezing, her body was desperately struggling to expel the water and quickly replace it with the air that she was having a hard time keeping down.
Making her way through the door of Mark’s house Emily’s memories were replaced with the disappearing sight of Jon, who was smiling warmly at her, waving as she entered his house.
Jon had been stuck working in that tree since noon, his wife was unable to help him since she was cooking, and his son was more focused on entertaining his friends than the safety of his own father. Jon was hoping that when Mark came home from school he would be able to help him, just like he had help his father when he was growing up, but alas all Mark cared about was his friends.
“Your Dad is so cool.” One of his friends had said as they gathered around to watch. “He looks like he’s three stories up, I don’t think my dad could do this.”
“Shouldn’t you help him?” Another had asked. ‘why, yes. Mark should help me.’ Jon had thought to himself when his son answered.
“No, my dad likes doing this kind of work.” Mark said flatly. “He always has his nose in some sort of project, if I help him there will be nothing for him to do.”
‘if I help him.’ Jon sighed, ‘some sort of project?’ Jon could feel almanbahis his blood boiling. How could such a well-educated child of his be so ignorant? Did he even realise that those projects were the ones that paid for his car, or put him through school? Did he even know that the work he did in architecture was going to put him through college next year? He had half a mind to take away Mark’s luxuries, when Jon was growing up he didn’t have the internet or access to a cellphone, let a lone a car.
“I think you should help him.” Spoke a familiar voice. “What if he does fall?”
Jon knew that soft sweet voice anywhere. Emily had been the first friend Mark had made when they had moved to this town. Living just two doors down, Emily was like family to him, and vice versa. Emily’s father had grown up in this town, so when he decided to settle down he moved his family here. Funny enough, the had moved into the house two doors down the same day that Jon and his family had moved in, Jon had introduced himself and the rest was history.
Jon knew that Emily had always had a small crush on him. Ever since she was a kid she would follow him around, asking so many questions about what he was doing and where he was going. It was honestly kind of refreshing. Unlike Mark, Emily clung to his every word. Whenever he warned her about doing something wrong, she would listen. When she was younger, and they would take the kids to the mall, she would always hold his hand, unlike Mark who just ran off. Whenever ever she had a problem that her mother couldn’t fix, she would seek out Jon who would immediately solve it, putting him higher and higher on the pedestal she used to adore him.
Sometimes he wished that Emily was his daughter, because at least he would have a kid who would listen to him for once. As Emily grew up, the usual tendencies she had as a kid started to feel more sensual, sitting next to him during movie night, or sitting on his lap for fun even holding his hand started to feel like they were more than just what they were. Immediately, Jon put a stop to it.
Upsetting her, Jon had to explain that if she did those kinds of things now that she was almost an adult people would think that they were a couple, and the words “Only do that with the person you love” stuck in both minds.
Everyone was sitting around the table eating Mrs. Wards famous Macaroni, Cheese and Sausage when Jon came lumbering through kitchen door.
“I hope you saved enough for me.” Jon laughed giving his wife a kiss on the cheek before saying hello to everyone.
“Of course, I did.” Mrs. Ward laughed along with him, handing him a bowl more than twice the size of the ones everyone else was eating from.
Emily knew that Jon was a big eater, but she never understood where it all went. Sure, he was a tall guy, 5’11 if her memory served her right, but he wasn’t a big guy. Jon was slim, he always wore baggy long sleeve shirts whenever he worked, which was all the time, so she never knew what his body looked like. ‘Maybe he just had a fast metabolism,’ Emily thought to herself.
“YUM!” Jon’s face lit up like a child on Christmas morning. “My favorite. Thanks sweetie!”
Sitting at the head of the table Jon began to dig in. Somehow, Jon was both a big eater and a fast eater because he scarfed down the bowl before anyone finished their first serving. Looking at his wife with a big impish grin, Mrs. Ward who was only half way through finishing her first bowl hefted a big sigh. Getting up from the table she walked into the kitchen, returning with a medium sized pot and put it down in front of Jon.
“I hope no one wanted seconds.” She laughed as she watched Jon devour what remined.
Honestly, no one wanted seconds, the bowls that the Wards had in their home were far bigger than regular bowls that by the time everyone was done Jon had already finished his serving and was cleaning up the mess in the kitchen.
Humming to himself a tune that sounded like Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Jon scrubbed the bowl of everyone that handed him one, thanking them as he did. Mark was the only one that left his bowl on the table, no doubt thinking to himself that his parents would take care of it.
“Oh, Emily sweetie.” Mrs. Ward spoke as she took a wet bowl from Jon and dried it. “You mother called earlier today.”
“She did?” Emily and Jon both spoke in unison making Emily’s cheeks turn a soft shade of red.
“It was when you were working on the tree honey.” She said answering her husbands question before turning back to her. “and yes, she did. She called telling me that your sister and her had to leave to take care of your grandma for a week. She said, since you’re the eldest you have to watch the house until they get back.”
“Eldest.” Jon scoffed. “Are we living in the olden times?” His eyes met Emily’s giving her the ‘I just made a funny joke’ look.
“Maybe?” Emily said laughing along.
“That being said.” Mrs. Ward continued. “You’ll be staying with us until your mom and sister return. almanbahis giriş Honey, could you prepare the guest bedroom for her?”
“Why don’t we just give it to her?” Jon spoke without thought. “She’s slept in that room far more than any guest has, she practically lives here.”
“You’re not wrong.” Mrs. Ward agreed, smiling warmly at Emily. “You’re like family.”
The rest of the day went on as usual. Mark and his friends played video games while Emily sat on the couch, her attention split between the book and the tv. Fluffs, the Ward’s house cat curled up on her lap purring as she fell asleep. Jon had prepared the guestroom for her stay and was taking a nap outside on one of the lawn chairs with Ms. Jigsaw, his small black border collie, snoring along next to him, and Mrs. Ward had left to pick up groceries.
Emily was engrossed in her book, the chapter becoming more and more catching when Mark screamed so loud, Fluffs jumped off her lap giving her thighs a few good scratches.
“I win!” Mark screamed pumping two fists into the air. “Suck it!”
His eyes met Emily’s and his cheeks flushed. Emily was acutely aware of his feelings for her, but she thanked whatever god it was that made him keep it to himself. She didn’t know how to tell him no, she didn’t think that he had ever heard the words no. She loved Mark like a brother and as much as she did love him, she hated how spoiled he was. She couldn’t understand how someone could feel so entitled, even though Mr. & Mrs. Ward never spoiled him, he acted like such a brat thinking that everything should be his.
Sighing softly, Emily got up and made her way upstairs to the guest bedroom as Mark said bye to the last of his friends. Looking around she really felt like this room belonged to her. Even though it lacked some of her things, like the Zach Efferon poster, or the poster of the Avengers fighting Thanos in the new movie, or the lava lamp that Jon had got her for her 14th birthday that she kept by her bed and used as a nightlight, but what it did have was a dresser full of her clothing. She really did practically live in this room.
Hearing some hurried footsteps behind her, Emily turned around and saw Mark standing in the doorway. Marks breathing was short and heavy, like he had run up to meet her. He wiped his forehead with his sleeve, his fingers twiddling aimlessly as he opened his mouth only to have no words.
“Emily.” Mark said finally finding his words. “Next year we’ll be going off to college.”
Mark didn’t seem to know where he was going with this, but Emily did. She knew Mark had like her since they were little kids. Mark was forced to stand by and watch boy after boy confess their feelings for her, almost all his guy friends had and even some of the popular guys had as well, some of them saying “ditch the loser squad and get with the hero crew.” Emily turned all of them down, it’s not that she didn’t think that any of them were cute. She even thought that some of them would make good boyfriends, but neither of them matched her ideal kind of guy, her ideal kind of guy was… different.
“Did you hear, Mark wants to ask Emily to Prom.” Emily had over heard one of her girlfriends gossiping to her friends.
“I thought it was sweet what he did for her 18th birthday.” Another protest.
“Why doesn’t she just go out with him?” Protested another. “They’re always together, she sleeps over at his house, they’re practically already dating.”
Emily felt nauseous, she couldn’t even look at Mark like that. First off, he was an inch taller than her, her ideal man was tall, not 5’4. Second, he was spoiled. Sure, what he did for her 18th was sweet, but who do you think paid for it? His parents, that’s who. Finally, Mark was pudgy, she didn’t want to date someone who was curvier than her, yes Mark wasn’t fat but no, just no.
Emily’s face was hot, she was sure she looked like a tomato, she always did whenever she was embarrassed. Mark wasn’t any better, his cheeks were so flush they looked like big cherries on either side of his nose.
“Emily.” Mark pressed on. “I know you could say yes to anyone, you’re pretty, smart, funny and gorgeous.”
Emily was sure “pretty” and “gorgeous” were pretty much the same thing.
“But you didn’t say yes to anyone.” Mark started to find his confidence. “I know you’re probably waiting for the right guy to come along, but you’ll never know who he is until you try.”
‘Yes, I do!’ Emily thought to herself. ‘I know who the right guy is, the perfect guy, and he isn’t you.’
“Maybe this isn’t the right time.” Mark stammered on. “But, is there ever a right time?”
‘YES!’ Emily’s inner voice wanted to scream at him. ‘Never! Never is the right time. NEVER!’
“Maybe, I could be the right guy?” Mark paused a moment too long, he was so nervous he was almost cute. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that, I like you Emily. No, I love you. And I was hoping that you would be my girlfriend.”
“No.” Emily thought the word, but when almanbahis adres Mark looked at her in stunned sadness she realised that she had spoken the word.
“What?” Mark’s face was a mix of confusion and heartbreak. Clearly, he didn’t think Emily would reject him, of all people.
“Mark, I don’t like you that way.” Emily confessed. “I never have, and I never will.”
“But.” Mark tried to plead with her.
“You’re like a brother to me.” Emily forced herself to continue, she didn’t want to give Mark the chance to beg, she wasn’t sure if she could handle it. “I love you like I love my little sister. Your family to me and I don’t ever, ever, want to ruin that. I hope you understand.”
“I don’t.” Mark’s voice was cold and solid. “I don’t understand. I have given you so much, and I’ve watched you turn down every guy who asked you out, and whenever you did, you’d come home with me. I thought you liked me too.”
“Mark.” Emily wanted to cry, she felt like she was being pushed into a corner. “We go home together because we live next to each other. You haven’t given me anything, your parents give you the money so that you can ‘give me everything.’ You haven’t worked hard for anything, not once, you’re spoiled and conceited. I don’t want to hurt you, but you’re like my big brother. Can’t you accept that?”
Mark looked like he wanted to protest. How could Emily say something like that? Did she not understand how much he loved her? Maybe if he showed her she would understand.
“No. I can’t accept that.” Taking one shaky step forward Mark looked at her with frightening determination when he was suddenly stopped by the call of his mother.
“Mark!” Her voice echoed through the house. “Help me unload the car, Now!”
Clenching his fist, he sniffed back a tear. He wanted to say more to her, but he didn’t know what to say.
“I’m sorry Mark.” Emily pleaded, her eyes reflected fear. She had both hands out in front of her, palms out as if they were going to stop him. Was she scared of him? No, that can’t be, she just needed to know how much he loved her. “I don’t want to hurt you, but please stop. I don’t like you and I never will, please leave it at that.”
“Mark!” His mother called one last time.
“Think about it.” Mark’s eyes met hers, he tried to sound cool, calm and collected, but all Emily could see was anger, disappointment and heartbreak, she was scared Mark was going to hit her. With his last words, Mark turned around and made his way down the stairs to help his mom.
Emily nearly collapsed onto the bed behind her, she hadn’t realised but she had backed up almost two meter and now the back of her legs pressed firmly against the bed. She had never been so scared in her life, she didn’t think Mark was going to confess to her, and she hoped he never would, but she didn’t think it would go this badly.
She knew Mark didn’t take rejection well. Last year when he asked his father for a new car, he was rejected, and instead he got mark a beat up 1998 Honda civic. Mark was so mad that he screamed at his father for not getting him what he asked for, Emily was shocked when she witnessed Marks tantrum, she didn’t think anyone could blow up so harshly towards their father like the way he did. Anyone would have been happy if their parents bought them a car, but Mark wasn’t satisfied.
Mark screamed at his father, calling the car a piece of trash, then calling his family a piece of trash. The last straw was placed when Mark called Jon an asshole. Emily could remember the sound like it happened yesterday, one second Mark was screaming the next Jon’s face was so contorted in anger as a loud crack echoed through the air between them and Marks face was stuck in disbelieve. Holding one side of his face gingerly, Mark turned slowly towards his father.
“Don’t you ever!” Jon raised a fist threateningly, his voice rising in an angry crescendo, Mark cowered in fear as his father slowly and calmly lowered his voice to a low menacing growl. “Don’t you ever use that kind of language with me again. I’m not scared to beat the shit out of you if I must, you spoiled piece of shit. Your mother picked out this car, and when she gets home you will thank her from the bottom of your heart. Do you understand me?”
Mark didn’t move, he kept his defiant eyes locked in his father’s glare.
“You will apologise by tonight or I am taking away everything you fucking own.” Jon’s raise hand moved to his pocket and he took out the keys to the car. “These are the keys to your new car you little shit.” He said tossing them angrily at his son who didn’t even flinch, letting them hit him in the chest and fall to the ground. “You better know your place tough guy, I’d hate to take away your new car.”
Walking to his pick-up, Jon waived at Emily to follow. Placing one protective hand on her shoulder Jon looked at his son one last time before opening the passenger door to his truck. “By the way, Emily here also helped pick out the car, she wanted to see your face when you got your first car.”
Emily being short always had a hard time climbing into Jon’s pick-up, so just for today Jon placed both his hands on either side of her waist and lifted her softly into the seat letting her strap in before closing the door behind her.