This has been requested by so many. even though it never features in the original books, it seems all of you want to know how this went down. So here we are….the start of Sophie and Arry.
I get out of the cab and drag my rucksack with me, feeling tired today, after the long ass flight on a commercial airline from LA and just glad to be back on home turf. It was a hell of a week at a bachelor party that turned into a crazy endless, sleepless, drunk fuelled mess. I don’t remember half of it, and I’m sure I still have that Veronica girls phone number written on my chest in red lipstick. I went straight from bed with that blonde girl, Tanya or Tracey, whatever her name was, to the airport, and now I’m desperate for a shower. It’s not like me to hit on women for just a one night hook up only, but it was my last night in LA, and I knew I would never see either of them again.
I’m getting as bad as Jake and I know I should really curb some of the reckless behaviour lately, I just feel so listless and restless all the time, out of whack and school is boring me. I’m smarter than most of my class and I don’t even have to try to make the grade. While everyone is stressing out and studying, I’m flying through, my mind isn’t being challenged. I’m bored, ready to find something new to do with my life; spending more time with Nathan, my room mate, at the gym than ever. He’s been pushing me to take my hobby further, martial arts, but I just don’t know. It seems a weird thing to chase for a career.
I guess after years of not condoning how Jake went, I can see me following the same path, despite my reservations and hatred of how he parties and hooks up with randoms. I mean, I’m not that bad yet, I at least date. A few weeks at a time, until I get the same feeling of suffocation from their neediness, or another jealous outburst pisses me off, and then I let them down gently. I even stayed friends with some of them, but no one really ever made the long term cut. I’m nineteen, in college, and too young for that shit just yet.
I push open the front door and get the hugest smile from Mariah, our housekeeper, as she tries to relieve me of my bag, but I shake my head and stop her hand, dropping it by the stair instead.
‘I’ll leave it here, it’s heavy. I’ll carry it up when I go.’ I lean and give her an affectionate peck on the cheek, getting a blush in return and a huge smile. She’s been part of this family since I was born and she’s like an aunt or even a second mom to me nowadays. Mariah pats me on the cheek and moves off, nodding towards the kitchen as she goes, and I nod in thanks. She knows me so well.
‘Mamma..Where are you? I’m home.’ I call out for my mother, hearing voices in the kitchen and the noise of crockery banging. She’s in her favourite place, making great things to eat and I’m ecstatic. I’m starving and nothing beats my mamma’s home cooking.
I wander to the kitchen door and am greeted with her right away, looking beautiful in a floral dress and wiping white flour dust from the print. She looks good today, happy, upbeat, blushed from the hot kitchen and I embrace her.
‘Ahhh, il mio bambino.’ She hugs me tightly, planting a kiss on the corner of my mouth and pats me on the cheek too. I miss my family when I’m not here, but I have been a restless soul for years, and being home never seems to satisfy me. I’m here for a week, then back to school to take some finals.
God knows after that.
‘Hey mamma, mi sei mancato‘ I kiss her on the cheek and let her go, catching sight of a blonde head behind her in the kitchen, and it immediately peaks my interest. Not really bright blonde, more of a honey colour, pulled back in a ponytail and bearing a make up free cute face, that’s downward facing, looking into a bowl as she mixes something. Hard to really tell what she looks like, but the slim body hints at young teens, enough curves to be around sixteen, maybe older. definitely interesting. I can’t help the little peak of interest, I mean I am still slightly under the influence, so maybe I have beer goggles on or, whatever,but she’s a nice view from here. Too young for me.
‘Arry this is Sophabelle, our newest Huntsberger addition.’ My mom introduces her, and she looks up, completely flooring me for a second when tropical blue eyes, large for her features and set in a completely devastating way on such a flawlessly ethereal face, looking back at me. I can barely take my eyes off them, like she just draws me in with a colour that is uncomparable to any blue eyes I have ever seen. So clear and strong and vibrant. Like they just cut through all your crap and see your soul.
She blushes as soon as she sees me and it makes everything inside of me feel weird, I’m not sure what the fuck kind of reaction it is. I swallow hard, push out this stupid feeling, these crazy thoughts and scan her face instead. Pretty hard to do while those eyes are focused on me.
‘Hey, how you doing?’ God, I sound completely predictable, worst line ever.
She has gone back to looking down at what she is doing and for a moment, I forget my mom is even standing beside me.
She looks young, unsure, guarded, and with those dazzling blues off me I can appreciate the pouted mouth, slender face and high cheekbones of a girl who probably models for a living. She has the face and the body, and definitely the flawless skin. I know a lot of models and wonder how we have never crossed paths, then I remember my mum said she’s a Huntsberger kid. They only take in children who are usually running from a life that hurts them, and I give her a second look.
She doesn’t look abused, neglected or even scarred. She just looks…. closed off.
‘Hi.’ She says flatly, glancing up quickly and looks back down at what she’s doing. Not interested. I don’t miss that pretty clear signal. It’s like a massive sign she just planted between us.
Definitely guarded, maybe she IS one of their typical children, that they like to take in. They always give a home to the ones who need it most, and I wonder what her story is. She hides it well, and for once I can’t read someone. My gift eludes me and suddenly I just want to know; I don’t know why, there’s something about her and looking at her, trying to ignore my presence, I really want to get inside her head.
‘You’re a chatty one, aren’t you?’ I laugh, attempt to break the ice as my mother leaves me too it, watching me with a smile. She always encourages me to interact with the kids she shelters with her love. She has very few who come here from her charity, I’m used to meeting them, but this one….. she’s something else.
I can normally spot it a mile away, figure out what the story is…violence, neglect, sexual abuse…sometimes it’s just a runaway, or parents who died from drug overdose. She looks like a girl from the streets of the Hampton’s; healthy, tanned, well dressed in jeans and a unicorn T-shirt with sparkly shit all over it. Cute and perky. Clean and manicured. No hint of anything, except in those eyes that are like a doorway to another place. So much behind that closed door.
‘Shhh, leave her be. Sophie is just fine once she warms to you, stop teasing her.’ My mom throws me a warning glare and tends to making coffee. I get the message; this one is a personal case. My mom rarely takes a kid to heart unless its something really bad. I double glance her and feel that horrible gut ache…. last kid my mom was this close with, his dad had been sodomising him daily, locking him in the basement and starving him. I glance at her again and try so hard to figure why anyone would hurt someone as angelic looking as her. She has a strength about her, but there’s an overwhelming aura of vulnerability that just knocks me off kilter.
She’s still mixing batter and it bugs me that she really has no interest in me, that those eyes are hidden from this angle. I walk forward and dip my finger in what she’s mixing, in an attempt to catch her attention, force her to look at me. It backfires and I give her a fright, seeing her jump and hop back defensively.
It’s like a little flash behind her wall, a moment of fear and panic at me getting too close and in an instant, I see it. She’s definitely an abuse case, all the signs are their and it makes me feel instantly sick to my stomach for her. I move back slowly, trying not to react, because I don’t want to embarrass her. I shouldn’t have gotten in her space; read the signs and stayed back. I feel like such an asshole.
She takes a long slow breath, attempts to get herself back to cool and guarded and I see the slight tremble in that delicate mouth, sucker punching me and making me feel even shittier about scaring her. She’s a runner, I can tell. Flight or fight so ingrained in that pretty little face, it’s second nature…whoever did whatever they did. It must run deep.
‘Tastes good…you must have the magic touch.’ I say it softly, sucking the revolting mixture from my finger and wondering what the hell my mom is making, moving back to get out of her space without gagging.
Six feet minimum, my mom always said, give the kids six feet or more to breathe. If they want you closer they will let you know. In her case, I’m getting the vibe she wants the world twelve feet away at all times and that only strengthens the fact someone messed her up for a long time. The ones who have lived with it long term, they are the ones who show the least of it on the surface. Like her.
I bet all her scars and pains are under thirty layers of concrete and she tells no one without a fight.
She’s back to mixing, trying to appear unaffected. It makes my heart bleed for her.
So young to be so afraid.
‘She has, if she only had a softer touch and more patience.’ My mom laughs and comes to remove the bowl from her swiftly, she hands her another instead, that is filled with a new mixture and a fresh spoon. I watch with interest, the hand off, and notice even my mom avoids touching her. No contact at all, not even her normal little affections she has for some of the kids. Its textbook for my mom.
Sexual and violent.
Mother fucker. I feel that welt of anger rise in me from somewhere deep. People who abuse little innocents like her, deserve to be tortured to death slowly.
‘You can massacre this one if you like.’ my mom giggles and Sophie’s face warms a little, a slight relaxation in her taut muscles. I can’t tear my eyes off her, wanting to peel away the layers and figure her out. She’s like this beautiful mystery that’s shrouded in sadness and it really gets to me.
She catches me looking at her and glares defensively. Warning me off, telling me to stay away and I smile back in a bid to ease her suspicion. I’m making her uncomfortable, being an ass and I should know better. She’s female…clearly has a thing about males. I need to back off.
I pick up a piece of fruit from the bowl and look anywhere but at her, even with my eyes elsewhere, looking around the kitchen, I can feel the icy glares aimed my way and try to ignore it. All my own fault, I made her feel threatened, and now shes trying to make sure it goes no further.
It won’t…. I’m not that kind of an asshole.
‘You redecorated?’ I ask my mom, looking for anything else to talk about while blondie is trying to kill me with laser eyes and seriously beating the shit out of whatever she’s mixing. I think I maybe helped kill a cake.
‘Nope… Just changed a few accessories.’ My mom smiles back at me then spies some spillage beside Sophie’s bowl, hands me a wet cloth without hesitation, a big hint I should clean it up. I don’t exactly think my mom realises that Sophie is sending out a huge STAY THE FUCK AWAY arrow, at me.
I put down the apple and make a play to clean up the mess , without getting closer, trying to keep my distance. I barely get near and she lifts the bowl and moves further away. I feel deflated, sucky. I managed to make her widen her ‘no go zone’ from six feet to eight…. just by being an ass.
Well done Arry.
She waits till I hand it back to my mom and get further away before she returns to her safe spot and my eyes are instantly drawn back to her. Even lacking conversation, lacking eye contact. I just want to know her. I want to know her story, how she got here, if she’s staying. I wonder if this is the kid Jake mentioned in passing when he called me a couple months back and swallow hard.
I hope not.
He said she was a runaway, on the streets, from a lifetime of abuse at her own fathers hands. If she is the same kid….. fuck. I look her over again and can’t see the connection. I had imagined that girl would be skinny, malnourished, closed tight, jumpy and obvious about her pain. Like most of the kids my mom saw. This one is nothing like that. You have to look deeper to see it.
The phone starts ringing and my mom takes it from the wall, utters a hello to my aunt, then gestures two minutes to the girl and leaves the room. Taking the phone with her as she chats in her native tongue and leaves us to it.
I see the panic flare across that face for a fleeting moment, and realise she isn’t too happy to be alone with me. Not that I blame her; my mom is so used to me helping out at the centre, leaving me with kids, she forgets I’m a stranger to this one. Although kid isn’t the right word for her, she’s sort of inbetween…. not a kid, yet not a woman either.
I guess she got old enough to run, and did so. Run from whoever was hurting her. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like. She looks too fragile to go it alone.
‘Huntsberger’s huh? So you’re Leeloo’s new sister?’ I try to relax her, show I am no threat in any way. All thoughts of anything else are gone. I don’t want to scare her, or date her…. I just want to help her feel a little bit safer around me.
She shrugs, eyes still down and I frown and chew my lip. I pushed her further into herself and now I want her to come out and talk to me. I lean forward to grab my apple, letting my eyes skim the table to relieve her from my weird and obvious staring, and don’t see her move around until it bumps and rolls out of reach and realise she’s banged into it.
I dip to catch the fruit, but so does she and then she panics when I get too close. Standing up and seeing I’m almost face to face with her and she’s backed up against the table, hands up, breathing heavily and curling into herself defensively. It’s like shes waiting on me to punch her in the face or grab her in some way and it cuts to the core. Hits me in the gut that she is this afraid of me getting close. She looks completely terrified in that second, skin drained white, eyes huge and wounded, and I don’t think one girl has ever made me feel so god damn fucked up in one look.
‘I’m sorry, didn’t mean to get so close. I’m not going to touch you.’ I don’t know how to react. I lift my hands to show her I won’t and move back slowly, steadily, unsure what else to do. I hate how she’s looking at me right now. She just looks poised to run fast and far, and I know stopping her will only make this worse.
My mom will beat the shit out of me for this.
‘I need to go home.’ she sounds so small, it hurts. Voice shaking, soft, almost inaudible. I can’t get my eyes off that face. I think there’s a good chance she will haunt me for an eternity with how she looks right now. I can never understand what makes a guy do this to a girl. Especially his own kid.
‘I’ll go…You stay, you obviously were in the middle of something with my mom.’
She looks at me like I have two heads, that cute face turning from fear to a frown, if it wasn’t following that look I would have smiled. She’s cute as frowner, and it seems to expel all fear in a second.
‘Put your hands down…that’s lame.’ She nods at my raised palms, sounding more stroppy than scared and I have to admire her ability to recover quickly. I guess its all part of how she got through life.
She’s a survivor.
‘I guess it is. You just looked like for a second you might want to take a low blow at my family jewels.’ I lower them, still moving back and smile, at just how cute she actually is when she forgets to be defensive for a second. A little hint of another girl in there, maybe one with a sense of humour and little bit of sass.
You can’t take that out of a survivor.
‘I really will go. Just need to grab a can of coke from the refrigerator behind you…you know, or you could, so I stay over here.’ It’s a lame delay tactic, but I am not ready to just go. I like her. There’s something about her that I can’t put my finger on, beyond how pretty she is.
‘You don’t need to go, it’s your mom’s house. I can just come back another time.’ She glances at the refrigerator and moves to get me a soda. Watching her movements, she’s not graceful and swan like, but it somehow suits her. I can imagine her being a girl who trips on nothing and can play a mean game of baseball. She has an air of tomboy, even though she is dressed like any other teen girl from around here.
‘I’m home for a week, It’s cool. I can get out of your way and leave you to bore yourself to tears with my mom. Just leave me some cake as a thanks before you go.’ I wait until she slides the can across the table and gets back, before I reach for it. This time she doesn’t move as far away and I have a little internal hooray at that tiny inch of progress. Eight feet, back to six. It’s huge.
‘You don’t want to eat the cakes I make…… I kill everything I touch. I am not a good cook.’ She blinks at me seriously and I see it again, hints of funny. Hints of sassy.
God, I want to know this girl.
I was always a sucker for a girl with feistyness…like Leila. I see Leila in her, another sad story behind a girl who is stronger than her scars. Leila is one of my closest friends, like a sister to me.
‘I have a stomach made of steel, if I can handle my room mates attempts, then pretty sure yours won’t kill me. Besides, I kinda want to see how bad it can be. I’m intrigued now that you said you kill everything you touch.’ I smile at her impulsively and get an instant glare.
‘You really don’t trust me, do you?’ I can’t stop smiling at her, she brings it out in me with those ferocious looks and hateful furrows of her brow. It’s like a kitten trying to attack you.
‘I don’t know you… I don’t trust anyone I don’t know.’ She’s looking at me, eating into me with tropical blue eyes and I let her. I can feel her picking me apart, trying to suss me out and I don’t want her to see a threat. I want her to know she can trust me…that my intentions are pure. I just want to earn her friendship, get below the surface that she lets the world see. She’s complex as hell and maybe only sixteen in age, but that mind and soul are way older.
‘Clever girl…It’s not a bad way to be. Earning trust happens to be something I’m good at though.’
‘Doubt I’ll be around long enough for that to ever happen.’ She responds flatly. Warning me off, cutting me down in any way she knows how, to make it clear that I don’t get close. I’m not even phased one little bit; the best things in life are those that take a lot of work to achieve…I have a feeling she won’t be any different, and I am so ready for something worthwhile in my life.
‘I should make the most of a new face in the street then…You could always come hang out with my friends and me, go for pizza, or whatever.’ I say it casually, hoping it’s not too soon, but I want it out there. An olive branch, a hand that says we can maybe be friends. She gawps at me like I am insane and I have to curb the urge to grin. She has a way of making angry, hateful looks, irresistibly cute.
‘Yeah..I don’t think so , you’re too old. I don’t like boys.’ She answers snottily, furrowing her brows and making a clear show of indifferent disinterest. Looking back down at the table with a big ‘back off buddy’.
I’m not going to give up, I have to see those blue eyes again.
‘I’m not that old..You have to be what? Sixteen..I mean you look around that age, maybe seventeen. I’m not asking for date, I just mean to hang with people you might make friends with, you know, with being new here.’ I watch her stir the shit out of what is left of the cake mix and hope to god she doesn’t intend baking it. Pretty sure all the flour has probably glooped by now, from overworking it.
Well, she did say she can’t cook.
‘I’m fourteen, and I don’t need more friends. I met some kids at school that are okay. I prefer to just do things by myself.’
I blanche at her age admission and do a double take. There is no way in hell she is that young, I don’t believe it. She’s got too much of a wise look in her eyes and she’s clearly further in puberty than most her age. Jesus Christ. That could have been messy if I had kept pursuing a less than pure mind set early on.
Definitely no dates…ever…………. For like maybe five years.
‘Wow, really? Shit. You definitely look older. Look I’m not angling for anything…I’m not like that. Even if you were sixteen, or whatever, I really did mean just pizza, just hanging out.’ I forget myself for a second, blown away with really trying to see her as that young and move forward. Seeing her whole body freeze is like a slap in the face and I back off again. I really need to remember this girl likes her space, not to cross it. I hate seeing her backing into defensive.
‘I don’t like strangers, or crowds, or pizza.’ She answers quickly, avoiding my eye again and I sigh. She is going to be a tough nut to break through. Charm and smiles aint going to mean a thing to her, I’m flying blind with a girl that isn’t swayed by good DNA, chat up lines or even the normal witty Carrero charm. This one is going to test all my limits and skills.
‘I get the feeling that whatever I suggest will get a rebuff, and now I’m starting to sound like a desperate weirdo trying to make a date. Look, offers always there if you get bored. When I’m home….which is every month….then whatever. We’re neighbours, and you’re now one of my closest friends sisters. Leila and I go way back. I’m just being friendly.’ I lean back against the counter behind me and smile, meeting her gaze finally and those eyes that are becoming a little bit addictive. She narrows them on me, still glaring, still the cutest thing I have ever seen.
‘I don’t need friendly.’ She points out. Extremely serious.
‘Everyone could use friends, even just one.’ I lift a brow in a bid to appeal to her softer side, It falls flat.
‘I don’t need any, not even one.’ She drops the spoon in the bowl and finally puts that poor mix to rest.
RIP cake batter.
‘I’m not just any one.’ I grin at her, coaxing softly and almost high five myself when I see the tiny hint of a plausible smile. The first crack in her armour. Its a worthwhile reward and a little hint that she has a nice smile.
God, I want to see her smile, I think I just found my new purpose in life. To make this girl smile, even once. Just for me.
‘You’re lame. I think you maybe just need to go find a girl who may actually be interested. This one isn’t.’ She picks up the spoon and licks the batter in a really juvenile way, not sexy at all, not even trying to be, and I grimace with her. I know how bad it tastes, I should have forewarned her not to put it in her mouth.
‘I’m not someone who gives up. I will ask you every time I see you…You will cave one of those times.’ I shift to get comfy, glad she hasn’t insisted I still leave. I kind of like it here.
‘Find me the elusive last unicorn and I’ll think about it.’ She sighs heavily, and that same ghost of a smile peaks out at me. I find myself willing her to just let it loose, watching that mouth a little too closely and I have to remind myself that she is only fourteen….back off. This isn’t right.
‘Is that a challenge?’ I focus on what she said, wondering what the hell she is on about, but the t-shirt is maybe a clue. Some sparkly white horned horse. She obviously has a serious addiction to Unicorns. Good to know. Maybe a subtle way in.
If I can figure it out then she might just rethink a pizza date…not a date…hanging out.
Too young, too scarred.
‘Sorry about that mia Bambino’s… family like to talk. I hope you were getting acquainted with Arry, my golden child. Such a good boy for his mamma.’ My mother pinches my cheek as she swans past and blows a kiss at me, loves to just embarrass her kids at every opportunity and I roll my eyes. I catch Sophie giggling at it though, that elusive smile and it’s better than I expected. It’s a perfect smile. Lightens her whole face, brings out her eyes and I smile straight back impusively.
Okay, so maybe I am a little bit enamoured with her…who wouldn’t be? She’s crazily alluring and when she smiles…… Sunshine.
‘Sophie was turning me down flat. Seems this one isn’t interested in pizza dates.’ I point out to my mom, I want Sophie to know that it’s innocent, my offer to hangout.
‘I should think not.’ My mom slaps my arm hard and I literally gawp at her in shock.
What the f…. Mamma.
Protective much. Jesus Christ, that stung. Even for my slap happy mother, that was a semi abusive slap. Maybe I should ring her own hotline.
‘What the hell was that for?’ I rub my arm and glare at her.
‘Because I know you, she is not on your radar…ever. Leave her alone and ..Sophie dear…’ She turns to Sophie with a warm smile , the girl nods at her and I shake my head behind my moms back. Completely misread all my intentions. Well, maybe not the first thoughts when I walked in here…but the ones I have now.
‘You have my permission to slap him in the man parts, if he ever tries to proposition you again.’
Classy mom. Real classy.
‘That’s not what I was doing…Jeeze, give a guy a break. I was trying to be nice. It was in no way a loaded invite.’ I shrug, but move fast when I see aggressive mother hen moving my way. Time to go, my mamma is slapping me with dish clothes and I get the hint she thinks I am trying to angle her sweet kid into something vulgar. That is never going to happen. I have way more sense and I can tell this girl is a hands off, forever, type of a deal.
‘Out, out…it’s girl time and you are not invited.’ She’s pushing me and I go, reluctantly.
‘I’m going, besides…I have a challenge to work out.’ I throw her a wink, maybe it’s a dumb move but it’s organic. I catch her looking at me warily, mask back in place and really not sure how to take me. My mind is made up in that second…fuck a shower and food. I am on a hunt to find that elusive unicorn and maybe a chance at seeing her again.
I sit through the movie, bored to tears, but intent on the answer, pen poised on the post it note, so I can turn this crap off. I have no clue if this is what she meant, but it wasn’t hard to find with a little help from google.
The last Unicorn, some lame cartoon from the eighties.
I was lucky to find a shop in town that had one, and I couldn’t resist the hanging display of fluffy toys nearby at the checkout when I went to pay for it. A pink haired fluffy white Unicorn to go with her movie, a little mascot if she really is into them. The cashier offered to gift wrap and I thought ‘sure’, seeing how much she likes sparkly shit, I opted for the silver bag and paper to match and figured it would be nicer to give her them this way. Watching the woman make swift work of both.
I never intended to unwrap the DVD, but I really wanted to surprise her with the answer, beyond just finding the movie…and now like an idiot I am suffering over an hour of unicorns turning to humans just to find they have all been hiding in the sea…wait…sea…Yesssssss.
I found your Unicorn Sophie.
I write it down, grinning wildly and stick it to the DVD case. Hauling the disc from my player and put it all back together, re-wrapping and pushing it back in the bag with the other package. I smile at my genius; this was too easy. She will need to do better than this if she wants to issue a challenge. I only wasted a few hours on this, well maybe a whole day, but I had no other plans anyway.
I pick up the bag to go and spy my stack of note cards on the desk in my room, stopping to write her a note quickly.
If not pizza, then maybe a milkshake, anytime you might be bored. No strings attached, no crowds, and no promises to be friends. We can sit at complete opposite tables. Enjoy your unicorns. Sophabelle. x A
I read it twice, checking it’s not pushy. That it’s clear that I expect nothing in return for this. I just want to see her smile next time I see her, nothing else. I get that she has reason to keep me at arms length, that this is not going to be easy to get her to relax with me. I turn it over and scrawl a quick unicorn doodle on the reverse side, I have no idea why. I guess I just want her to laugh when she opens it…. it’s not exactly my best work. I slide it in so it faces out, will be the first thing she sees and slide the thing into the bag. The thought of that cute giggle is in my head and I smile when I pick the bag up to cradle in my arm as I grab my coat and cell. I just need to go head to her parents house and leave it there for her ,when she goes home. Then I guess, I should actually go meet the friends who have been texting me for the last few hours and actually get that pizza.