61 | mystery guy

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I step out of my bathroom, drying my hair with a towel. Just as I sit down on my bed, my phone rings. I take it from the nightstand and check the caller. It's mom.

I pick up the call with a smile on my face. "Hi, mom."

"Hi, honey. How was your day?" Her soft voice fills my ear, making me miss her more.

"Great. The professor didn't give us many assignments, and we finished the class early," I say. "I had time to explore the library--" My sentence stops short.

My face feels hot as soon as I remember what happened with Aiden earlier in the library. I don't want to share this information with my parents.

"We received your gift for our anniversary," mom says with so much excitement in her voice. "Sweetheart, it's amazing. The painting is beautiful. We love it. Thank you so much."

Happiness fills my insides. To hear how joyful they are after receiving my gift makes my heart soar with so much pride.

I'm grateful that Aiden has helped me with the gift. It's all because he taught me how to paint it. Now that I think about it again, he did most of the job.

"I'm so glad to hear that you love it." My smile is so big. I almost burst into giggles.

"Of course we do," mom says. Her voice is filled with the same happiness.

"What did dad say about it?"

"Oh, he can't stop gazing at it." Mom sighs. "You know... The sky. The ocean. It's brilliant. That painting means so much to us, honey. He put it in a frame and immediately placed it in our bedroom. He's really happy."

I laugh. I can imagine dad staring at the painting nonstop until mom tells him to sleep.

"Wait, here he is," Mom says.

"Nevaeh," dad's voice booms. I can imagine the big smile on his face. "That painting is spectacular," he emphasizes the last word, making me laugh again. "It's amazing. You're amazing."

"I'm glad that you love it, dad," I say.

"Well, it definitely makes me really happy although I'd be happier if I could see you too," dad says. It's evident in his voice that he misses me. "How's it going over there? Is everything good? Are you happy?"

He always asks these questions in our phone calls, as though he wants to make sure that I'm really okay. This is why it was so hard for me to tell him about the incident on my first night in Seattle. I don't want to make him worry and drag me out of Seattle.

But then, I realize that the longer I keep this secret from him, the more I will hurt him. My eyes water as I think about that.

"I am, dad," I say. At least, I'm not lying to him about my feelings. "I really am happy."

In fact, I'd never been this happy. I grip my chest, thinking about Aiden.

"That's what I need to hear," dad says. "Look, I'm sorry that I haven't come to Seattle again because of my business trips, but I'll surely be there next week."

This information makes me freeze. My mind is still in loading mode.

Mom and dad will be here next week. And so will Sienna and Luna the week after. I really need to be prepared.

"Wait a second. The pizza guy is outside," dad says, handing the phone to mom as he walks away to get the pizza.

I can imagine them having a romantic movie date at home. I hope that I'll have what they have when I get married in the future -- love that never dies with time.

"Sweetheart," mom's voice echoes in my ear again. "Are you not going to tell me about it?" she suddenly whispers, making me wonder. "Who's this guy? Is he an artist?"

Her question shocks me to the core that I almost drop the phone in my hand.

"What?" I'm trying my best to hide how nervous I am. "What do you mean?"

"Come on, honey." Mom sighs, still keeping her voice down. "I know that you don't paint. And you've never been into painting. You don't even like to do it."

Damn. Now that she said it, I don't know what to say anymore. Aiden has turned my world upside down.

"So, do you like this guy?" mom asks but not in a warning tone--it's more like an assuring one. "Did he teach you how to paint? Did you paint together?"

Oh, God. Mom makes me even more speechless.

Never underestimate a mother's intuition, Nevaeh.

"Nevaeh." Mom sighs again. Her tone is gentle and understanding. "It's okay. You can tell me everything. I want to hear more about this guy."

"This guy?" dad suddenly interrupts, and I almost have a heart attack.


"What are you two talking about? Which guy?" dad asks with suspicion. I can imagine a frown on his lips. 

"P-pizza guy!" I exclaim. "I ordered a pizza too, dad. He's here outside my door."

My God, that was close.

Dad goes silent, but then he says, "Really?" His protective mode is on.

I gulp. "Yes," I say, but I can feel that he's not fully convinced.

"Mr. Bear, is there any guy coming over to see Nevaeh?" dad speaks in a warning tone, and I snap my head to Mr. Bear, who's sitting beside my bed.

Dad is even dragging my teddy bear into this.

Come on, dad. Mr. Bear is on my side. Aren't you, Mr. Bear?

"Speaking of Mr. Bear, he's lonely," I change the topic, blurting out anything I can think of in my head. "He needs a friend."

"Lonely?" dad echoes.

"Yeah, dad, I left him every day for college." Before dad can speak again, I quickly say, "I gotta get the pizza now. Bye. Love you."

With that, I hang up.


Double updates for Chapter 61 & 62

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