Chapter 8 : Elephant in the Room
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I've also received a few reviews about the American gang(stahs, sorry couldn't resist). I know I haven't introduced them properly, but they're going to have bigger parts in the story soon! But until then, I'll give you some quick info about them:
Noah: Kind, mature, loyal. Fake boyfriend. Works at the ministry.
Jasper: Arrogant quidditch player. Caring, protective brother type.
Jacob: The funny guy, dating a monster (aka Violet). Works at the ministry.
Max: Weird, a bit dense, but is the one who brings the gang together. Very social guy, works with PR.
Sam: Crazy, short tempered. Allison's best friend, and the one who saved her after the heart break (will tell you more about that story).
Perhaps not the best info, but hopefully it'll help you a little with your confusion!
Anyways, I really appreciate your feedback. I don't know if I've told you this, but I originally planned for this story to be a sequel. I started writing the first part, but then I realized it was boring and that this one was the real story, so I abandonded it and concentrated on this one. I never posted the first part, but writing it kind of made me feel like I know all the characters. Therefore I'm glad that you point out things that are confusing, so I can think about it when I write and be more clear about it!
And I'm pretty sure that no one had the energy to read all of that. Oh well, just know that I don't own anything you recognize. Chapter title is a song by Richard Walters.
I was in the kitchen, filling up the bottle with water when I thought I heard the front door open. I froze, not sure if I had imagined it.
“Al?” A voice called. “You here? I’ve tried calling you, but you didn’t answer so I thought I’d just head over with some breakfa-“
The person stopped talking, and as I snapped my eyes towards the door I met the familiar chocolate brown eyes that once used to make my heart melt.
“Allie?” James said, standing frozen in the doorway with a shocked expression on his face.
Both of us stood frozen for a while, just staring at each other. I felt my cheeks burn up, and it got even worse when I realized how bad this really looked.
Because there I was, standing in Al’s kitchen with messy hair and last night’s make up, wearing nothing but his t-shirt.
I had taken off the shorts he got me because it had been too hot, but I honestly don’t think it would have made any difference. I mean, there was really only one conclusion to draw if you didn’t know what had happened.
Before I found out about Dom’s wedding, I thought that the chances of me having to meet James again were slim. I didn’t have any plans on moving back, and he would never move away from his family. I thought that if I met him again, we would both be old and over the shit that had happened between us.
When I got Dom’s letter, I realized that I was going to have to meet him sooner than I had thought. I knew we would bump into each other sooner or later – especially when his family kept inviting me to dinner – but I never thought it would happen like this.
“Allie, is that really you?” James said, snapping out of his shock, running a hand through his hair. “What, er- what are you doing here?”
His eyes travelled along my body and I felt myself blush even more (if that was even possible) as he took in my disheveled state.
If there was a time I would love to be swallowed by mother earth, it would be now.
I felt like a bag lady in comparison to him. He was as handsome as ever, with his dark hair and chocolate brown eyes. I wasn’t sure if my memory of him was unfair, or if he was even more good looking now than five years ago.
Sure, I’d seen photos of him in magazines, but it wasn’t the same as seeing him in real life. He felt taller than I remembered, and his shoulders were definitely broader. He was very fit, and while he had been athletic in school as well his body was manlier now.
He looked great, and I had to force myself to stop staring. My feelings for him were long gone, but I still found him attractive. With looks like that, it was probably impossible not to.
I had no idea what to say to him. I hadn’t spoken to him in five years, and our last conversation had been pretty heartbreaking. He’d made a last attempt to talk to me on King’s Cross, but I had just walked away. And here we were, five years later, and our first conversation would probably be remembered as the most awkward ever.
“I, er…” I stammered, looking away.
Oh god, was this really how our first talk was going to be? I’d thought it would be a stiff but polite ‘hi how are you’, and some other awkward but obligatory questions. I’d never thought that it would be “I know this looks bad but I swear I haven’t slept with your brother”.
He was looking at me intently, and I knew he was waiting for an answer. The shock was disappearing and instead he looked confused.
“I’m just-“ I began but was cut off.
“James, what are you doing here?” Al said, walking into the kitchen.
Sure, he was shirtless and sure, he was looking just as disheveled as I did (seriously, that hair he inherited from his dad was just crazy) but he fucking SAVED MY LIFE! I felt like kissing him, although that probably would have been a tad impropriate considering the situation we were currently in.
Al was the best guy ever. He was a hero. I would forever be thankful to him for saving my ass. Twice.
“I was just going to bring you some breakfast” James said, holding up a bag. “But I didn’t know you were busy” he said, staring intently at his brother.
The two seemed to have some sort of silent conversation, and I could tell that James was wondering what the fuck was going on. I mean, who wouldn’t.
And since I didn’t feel like explaining (or talking at all really) to him, I saw this as my chance of escaping.
“Er, I think I’m just gonna call Dom and see if she’s answering” I said, running out of the kitchen before any of them could say anything.
I went into the guestroom and closed the door, letting out a breath of relief. Instead of picking up my cell phone, I leaned my head towards the door, trying to hear what they were saying.
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t morally right to do and maybe it was childish, but come on. Anyone would have done it.
“-the fuck Al? I walk in here only to find my ex-girlfriend standing half naked in your kitchen” James’ voice was heard.
Woah, he sounded angry. Sure, if anything would have happened Al would definitely have broken every law and bro code in the world, but still.
“Calm down James” Al said in a tired voice. “Dom ditched her when we went out last night, so I offered a place to sleep. There’s nothing going on between us.”
“Why is she wearing your shirt then?”
“Because I let her borrow it. Would you have preferred her walking around in her underwear?”
His question was met by silence. “I thought so.”
“I still don’t understand why you brought her home, Al. If it had been any other girl but her I wouldn’t have cared, but… It’s just- I don’t know. She was special, you know?”
I froze as I heard James talking, but I could hear my heart hammering in my chest. What the fuck was he on about? I did not want to hear this. This was not what I needed to hear.
I had convinced myself that James hadn’t cared about me; that he’d just seen me as another girl that he’d gotten tired of. It had been so much easier to think that what we had hadn’t been special: that I hadn’t been special. Thinking of it as a mistake had made it so much easier to forget.
“I know, but what would you have done? Left her alone? Let her go home with another guy? Gabe was there you know, and he seemed pretty interested. Would you have preferred me to let her go home with him?”
Now Al was the one who sounded annoyed, and I understood him. James was being ridiculous.
“No” James said in a hard voice. “You did the right thing. I was just shocked to walk in and see her like that.”
“I think she was just as shocked as you, you know.”
They both fell silent and I took this as my queue to stop listening. I had heard enough.
I sat down on the bed, thinking about what I just had heard. All my life I’d been told not to eavesdrop, and I finally understood why. You always end up hearing something you don’t want to hear, and you regret listening in. But there is no cure for curiosity, and I hadn’t been able to resist the urge that came over me.
The door flew open, and Al walked in with a smirk on his face.
“You can stop hiding now, you know” he said. “He’s gone.”
“I wasn’t hiding” I said quickly, darting my eyes away from his. “I’m just… chillin.”
Okay, so maybe that was the worst lie ever, but what did you expect from a hungover girl on a Sunday morning?
Al quirked an eyebrow and his smirk grew wider. “Oh really? So you’ve called Dom?”
I blushed. “Er, no. I mean yes, but she, er, she didn’t answer.”
God damnit why couldn’t I lie? I was usually pretty good at it – my job forced me to whenever we did an undercover job – but it seemed like I was unable to lie to Al.
“Hm, that’s funny” Al said, pretending to think. “I thought you needed this to call someone” he said, holding out my cell phone.
I gaped at him, and he laughed.
“It was lying on the kitchen counter, I think you put it there last night” he explained. “I know you were eavesdropping Allie, but luckily James didn’t seem to think you did.”
I blushed again. “I didn’t mean to, I was just-“
“Curious” Al finished for me. “Yeah, I can understand that. After all, you haven’t seen or talked to James in five years. Thanks for letting me handle his wrath alone by the way.”
“I thought it would be best if I slipped away. It would probably have been worse if I had stayed. Too awkward, you know…”
“Yeah, well, you’re probably right. So anyway, what’s on your mind? You looked kind of deep in thought.”
I sighed. Al was way too perceptive for his own good. I swear, that boy missed nothing.
“I’m just… surprised, I guess?”
Al raised his eyebrows. “Care to explain?”
“I can understand why James was so shocked, but I wasn’t expecting him to be so… angry.”
Al sighed and sat down next to me on the bed. “Allie dear, I know you think James is a heartless bastard, and I understand that. But you have to know that he really did care about you.”
“Al, you don’t do stuff like that to people you care about. I’m not bitter anymore, it’s been so many years, but I still have a hard time believing that he actually cared.”
“But he did. Don’t you remember those first months? He didn’t think about anything else but you! Never stopped talking about you either, it was really annoying” he said, flashing me a grin when he saw my glare. “My point is that he was more serious with you than he’d ever been, and frankly, he hasn’t been that serious after you either.”
“So maybe I was his first real crush, whatever. It doesn’t change the fact that he didn’t care, and even if he did it doesn’t change anything. It’s in the past” I said stubbornly.
Al sighed again. “Maybe. I wish you could just understand; you weren’t James’ first crush. You were his first true love, and even though he fucked it up he cared a lot about you. It was probably the fact that he did care that made him fuck up, no matter how twisted that sounds.”
“Yeah, the whole ‘I care a lot I just panicked’- thing” I said, waving dismissively. “He told me that shit years ago.”
“So you actually listened to him, I mean, heard him out?” Al asked, but he seemed to know the answer already.
I frowned. “No, I didn’t. I was too upset, but what difference would it have made? Rose told me most of it, but I didn’t exactly want to know all of the details.”
“Maybe you should have let him tell you his version” Albus said quietly, making my head spin with questions. “But never mind, I’m not going to defend my brother. What he did was wrong, but he would never hurt anyone he cares about intentionally. He was just young and confused, and no matter how weird it sounds, I know that he didn’t do it on purpose. He was just being stupid.”
“Yeah well, it doesn’t matter. What’s done is done, and nothing can change that. I don’t care what his reason was, because it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make it okay.”
We were both silent for a while, thinking about the past. I felt that I was letting go of it more and more. Each day in England made me more confident about the fact that I was getting over everything. My past wasn’t hunting me like before, and even though I wasn’t enjoying going through it again I found myself realizing that it wasn’t as bad as I had thought. I was pretty much over it, and soon it would hopefully just be a bad memory at the back of my head.
“Do you hate him?” Al asked, breaking the silence.
I closed my eyes and sighed. “No. Not anymore.”
As I said the words, I realized they were true. After the break up, I had decided that James was an asshole that deserved to burn in hell, and I had forced myself to hate him. I had forbidden myself to think positive of him, pushing away all of the good memories and instead focusing on the bad ones. I had created an image of him to protect myself from the pain.
Now, I realized that even though I probably would never forgive him for what he had done, I didn’t hate him. He had probably changed, just like I had, and hopefully he had learned something from his mistake.
Albus put his arm around me and gave my shoulder a squeeze. “Good.”
The next few weeks passed in a blur. I was busier than ever with the extra work that the Quidditch World Tour involved, and the Weasley family kept calling me, nagging about hundreds of things.
Dom usually freaked out about something wedding related. Lily was having trouble with a guy, and needed ‘none relative advice’ whenever they had gotten into a fight. Rose helped me plan Dom’s hen night (which I was very thankful for) and Fred had started calling ‘just to talk’.
It seemed like they thought of me as part of their click again. I was a bit surprised that they had just welcomed me with open arms after everything that had happened, but I was happy for it. I found myself wishing that I had more time for them. My visits had made me realize that I missed England more than I thought, and I promised myself to go there more often after the wedding and the quidditch-shebang.
But until then I had to try to do my daily job, plan a World tournament, spend time with my friends, plan a hen night, prepare myself for a wedding and take time to talk to my English friends.
Needless to say, it was tough.
But I was used to hard work and stress, so I managed. My friends and colleagues helped me though, and without them I probably would have been a wreck.
Despite being more buried in work than ever, there was one thing I couldn’t get out of my head. No matter how much I had to do, James’ words and my conversation with Albus still echoed at the back of my head.
I was just confused by the fact that James still seemed to think of me as special. I’d always known that our relationship had been special, but I had stopped believing that James had thought the same when he cheated on me. Hearing him say what he’d said and talking to Albus about it made me question my own opinions and beliefs.
I just didn’t know what to think. For many years, I had believed that the love in our relationship had been one-sided: that I had been the only one who really cared. Now I was starting to realize that maybe I’d been a bit too harsh on my judgment; that maybe James had actually had feelings for me, and that he had actually cared.
It was a lot to think about, and while I tried to let go of it, it just seemed to pop up every now and then. As if I didn’t have enough to think about already.
“Allie, have you had time to look at the list of quidditch hooligans Tyler sent you?” Theodore asked as he walked into my office, interrupting my thoughts.
I was going over some paper work for a crime that we had just solved, and hadn’t had a chance to even look at anything quidditch related.
“No, I’m sorry, I’ll do it right away” I said, feeling guilty for being behind.
Theodore waved his hand. “Calm down, finish your paperwork and then do it. It’s no hurry; the tournament is two and a half months away anyway.”
His words made me feel even guiltier. Theodore had high demands and required everybody to work effectively, but he was also very understanding. I knew I had a lot to do; almost too much, but at the same time I didn’t want to let him down. He had helped me get to where I was, and so I wanted to show him that he had done the right thing. I wanted to be able to handle whatever he threw at me.
“I’m nearly finished anyway. Has Tyler found anything?”
“He has located the main groups, and has even talked to some of them. They seemed pretty harmless, but you never know” Theodore began as I was scanning through the papers, looking at pictures and criminal records. “He didn’t really find anything interesting, until he talked to this guy” he continued, picking up a picture of a skinhead.
“Now this guy is harmless. He’s the president of the British Support Club, also known as the British Quidditch Patriots. They’ve been in a fight or two, but it’s not too bad. Most of them have clean records so there shouldn’t be any problems with them, but this guy told us something interesting.”
I looked up from the papers and directed my attention to Theodore.
“Apparently, there are even worse quidditch fanatics than these guys. Nelson, as his name is, told us about this guy who had been a member of their club. At first he seemed like an ok guy, but all of a sudden he took things too far. He looked up the addresses of the players and started following their wives around. He even attacked a girl, but luckily she got away. There was no evidence though, so he got away with a fine and a restriction order.”
As he was talking, he pulled out a picture of a fairly normal looking guy. He had pretty short, medium blonde hair and grey eyes. If I hadn’t known that he was a creep, I never would have guessed. Then again, there were many criminals who looked like normal people. Not all of them were skinheads with tattoos.
“Apparently, he’s not the only quidditch lunatic. Tyler started digging more into it, and he found people like these in almost every country. I’m not sure if they’re actually going to make it to the World Cup, but I definitely think we should involve a psychiatrist. These people are mentally ill, and we need to be prepared in case something happens. You never know what these people are capable of.”
He pulled out a few more pictures of lunatics, and some of them had pretty big criminal records. This was just a small part of the threat, though; many of the creeps had never been sentenced, and so they weren’t in our records.
“That sounds like a good plan to me” I said as I was looking through the papers. “I’ll contact NYWH (New York Wizarding Hospital) and see if they have someone who can come over. I think we’ll have to arrange some sort of lecture or course for all of the security guards, agents and hosts.”
Theodore smirked. “Don’t worry, I already have that covered. Tyler’s at NYWH right now.”
“Oh” I said, once again disappointed that I was so far behind. The competitive part of me wanted to lead this project; not be informed last.
“Allie, you’re doing a great job, but you can’t do all of it on your own” Theodore said, reading my mind. “Besides, you wouldn’t want the others to sit on their arses, right?” he said in a bad British accent.
I rolled my eyes but couldn’t help but smiling. “Yeah yeah, whatever.”
Theodore laughed and stood up. “Well, I’ll just leave you to your mountain of work then.”
“It’s not that big” I said, looking at the pile.
“Nothing my best Investigation Agent can’t handle” he said and smirked. “Don’t tell the others I said that.”
I grinned. “I won’t.”
“Oh and one last thing; the British ministry is hosting some sort of event for many of the people involved in the World Cup. I think there are going to be both players and officials there. Typical Brits; they’re always trying to steal the attention.”
I smirked at his innuendo. “What has that got to do with me?”
“Well someone has to represent our department” he said, and I felt my smirk fall. “And who is better than our own British Head?”
“Do I have to?” I said, grimacing. “You know I don’t really like those kinds of events.”
Theodore smiled apologetically. “I’m sorry; but it has to be a Head and I’m busy. Besides, isn’t it great to show them what a talent they have missed? You know, rub it in their faces” he grinned, and I rolled my eyes again. For being a man in his mid-forties, Theodore sure was immature.
“I don’t think they’ll see it that way, but whatever.”
“Oh but I think they will. And also, Harry Potter himself told me that he wished for you to come. Now if that’s not big enough to convince you I’m not sure what is.”
I scowled. Damn Harry Potter and his heroicness. I swear, if he just wanted to he could use that to get anything. I mean, who would say no to a guy who saved the whole wizarding world?
Yeah, thought so.
“Fine, I’ll go” I said, admitting defeat. I’d mingled with lots of people from my past the last month; I’d probably be able to handle it.
“Good! Mr Potter will be very pleased to hear this. Apparently, his whole family is going and they were all looking forward to seeing you. Did you know that his son James plays on the English Team? Impressive young man, that is. One of the youngest to play for England ever, according to Harry. Got on the team when he was eighteen. Apparently, he’s around your age so I guess the two of you know each other? Anyway, I’m sure you are going to have a good time. I’ll owl Harry right away!”
With those words, Theodore left my office. I swear he knew I was going to be angry and just left so I couldn’t take it out on him. That coward.
After cursing my boss for a moment, I realized what he had actually said.
The fact that James was on the English Quidditch Team wasn’t news for me. I’d heard about it long ago, but hadn’t really thought much about it when we’d started planning the World Cup. I didn’t care though; there was going to be so many people there so the chances of me having to talk to him were slim.
The stupid ball, on the other hand, was a bit worse.
The whole family was going to be there. All of them. Including James.
And I would have to mingle with them for an entire night.
Okay, who's disappointed about the Allie/James scene? Raise your hands. I know it was mean of me to tease you like that, but you know what? Next chapter has a bigger Allie/James part and it's written in James POV! Kind of nervous about that actually. Are you looking forward to it?
Anyways, aren't you impressed by my quick update? I was supposed to have a really quiet, nice evening; relaxing with candlelights and not doing anything. Well, I ended up almost setting my computer on fire and giving myself a nosebleed. And to top it all, my neighbours are having a party; blaring football anthems and singing along (AND YOU'LL NEVEEEEER WAAAAAALK ALOOOOONE, very beautiful. I'm thinking revenge tomorrow at 7 am). So much for a quiet evening.
But I guess that's good for you, because instead of just lying on the couch I lay on the couch writing on this story. I know, I'm so efficient haha.
So anyways, what did you think? When I read through it I found a lot of mistakes, so please let me know if you find more.
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