I quietly opened the door to our room, thinking that Naomi should probably still be sleeping soundly in our bed. I had snuck out a couple of hours ago for a quick morning jog around the neighbourhood with some Japanese dorm mates and the girl-next-door—literally—Jessica.
To my surprise the blonde was at the desk, sitting in front of her laptop, talking to my little brother James on Skype.
What is going on here? I wondered, genuinely alarmed. Why is my brother talking to Naomi and not to me?
With her back facing me, I couldn’t see my girlfriend’s expression—if she was thoroughly enjoying the conversation or if she was ready to blast in utter annoyance. Either way, I remained standing in the doorway and eavesdropped on their little chat.
“So, Naomi, since you’re my sister’s girl, I won’t bother you anymore,” James was saying. “That’d be really unmannerly and morally wrong of me, yea?”
“Oh, good grief,” Naomi replied with a derisive little chuckle. “Should I be baking you a ‘Thank You’ cake now?”
James only went on with an earnest face, “And since, in a way, you’re like my sister-in-law now, we’re somewhat bonded like brother and sister.”
“Um. I don’t think so, but whatever,” said the blonde dryly.
“And you should probably understand my situation, given that you’re a sensible, understanding adult.”
“Get to it quickly, James,” Naomi snapped.
“All right. There’s this girl I’m in love with. We were meant to be together for eternity. We’re engaged.”
The blonde rolled her eyes and snorted. “You’re fifteen, James.”
“I believe in long engagements,” James explained seriously, and I almost burst into laughter.
“And would this girl you’re in love with be named Chelsea?” asked Naomi.
“Negative,” James answered. “Chelsea, oddly enough, had moved to Chelsea with her family a couple of weeks ago. We don’t talk anymore. It was a nasty break-up. But I’m well over her now.”
“Okay. So who is the very unlucky girl?” Naomi asked, and I couldn’t agree more.
“Zoe Hammond. And before you say it, I know she doesn’t know we’re engaged. She doesn’t know about the eternity part yet, either. You might even say that she will never appreciate me for the mature gentleman that I am.”
Naomi jumped up from the swivel chair. “You’re a little boy, James,” she added sharply to him. “I don’t know what the fuck is going on with you—probably teenage boys like you go through a phase of great delusion or something, but you can just leave me out of it.” She then turned for the door. When she saw me in the doorway, she stopped short then shot me a look of thorough exasperation. I only shook with silent laughter, making her scowl all the more.
“Please, listen to me, Naomi,” begged James. “Please? Just hear me out. My sisters, especially Emily, wouldn’t understand me.”
Smirking in amusement, I waved Naomi off, urging her to go on and try to deal with my brother’s silly little drama. “Go,” I mouthed, waving her away—back to the desk.
Shooting me a mock glare first, Naomi nevertheless turned back to face my begging and expectant little brother on the laptop screen.
“Naomi, please,” James pleaded on, making puppy eyes. “Please. Just listen to me. I need your help. Some sisterly help.”
Grudgingly, the blonde sat back in the swivel chair and turned to him again, scowling. “You have thirty seconds, James Fitch. I mean it.”
James inhaled deeply. Then all in one breath, he said:
“I know I’m a dorky, pervy, pathetic little worm and girls my own age don’t even pay attention to me unless they want to look for someone to kick around or make fun of or get them free hotdogs or give them gym discounts or something, but I’m not the person everyone sees on the outside. I’m harmless and sensitive and I have a lot of uncontaminated love to offer.”
The blonde gave a little nonchalant shrug. “What do you want me to do?”
“Tell Zoe that she doesn’t have to worry about accepting my Friend Request on Facebook. I’ve been waiting for a whole week now, you see. And informing her that I’m Emily’s brother didn’t really help. So I want you to tell her I’m not some creep who just wants to right click-save all her sexy photos and store them in a hidden folder named ZoeBabes in his computer.”
Naomi’s jaw fell open. Then she made a face. “What the actual fuck?” She looked back over her shoulder at me, rather aghast.
That was my cue to meddle. I hurried toward the desk and put my face in front of the web cam. “Listen, James, listen to me,” I began, my tone grave, “I want you to fucking stop this nonsense now, okay? If you want someone to share your outrageous, disturbing tales with, go visit your boyfriend Gordon MacPherson. I’m sure he has a bollocky thing or two to say about all of this.”
James scrunched his face up. “I didn’t Skype with you for a lecture. Chrissakes,” he shot back. “I’m outta here.”
When James had finally signed out, Naomi spun in the swivel chair and turned to me with a serious look on her face. “Your little brother is going to be dangerous one of these days, Emily.”
I shook my head in utter repugnance. “Oh, trust me, he is dangerous now.” I slipped off my jacket, took off my tank top, and chucked them into the laundry basket.
Naomi leant back in the chair as if trying to de-stress herself, then smirked. “I have to reiterate now that it’s absolute heaven being an only child.”
“Good on you, babe,” I said, moving to the closet. “Really. Thank Gina for that.” I reached for a clean towel and placed it round my shoulders.
Naomi stared at me with alarm. “You’re limping.”
“You know my old ankle sprain comes back time after time,” I said with a lopsided smile and a shrug. “This is just one of those days. No big deal.”
“Aww, my poor Emsy. Come here, babe,” she cooed sweetly, patting her thighs.
I kicked off my running shoes then hobbled toward my girlfriend to dutifully sit on her lap. “I missed you,” she said, and I dropped a loving kiss on her waiting rosy lips.
“I bought ice cream along the way,” I told her, slipping my arms around her shoulders. “Our favourite. It’s in the kitchen.”
She smiled so beautifully. “Perfect. I’m starving.” Her hands were sneakily removing the towel off my bra-clad upper body.
I cocked a teasing brow at her. “Starving for ice cream? Or starving for my body?”
“Both,” she murmured, lightly brushing her lips against my sweat-dampened shoulder.
“I just drive you crazy, huh?” I said, watching her as she enjoyed stroking my skin with her lips.
“You definitely are,” admitted Naomi. “Even if you smell of something. And it ain’t roses, babe.” She scrunched up her nose.
“I’m sorry,” I said, laughing. “I don’t ooze delicious sweat like you.”
Naomi made a face. “Really, though, Em, I don’t like you talking about my body fluids. Or anything that I excrete for that matter. It’s so filthy.”
“Even your other yummy juice?” I wriggled my brows meaningfully.
She drew back, scowling even more. “Ems! Ew!”
“Yum. Yum. Yum,” I teased, grinning. “Yummy, yum, yum.”
“Emily, stop,” she grounded out, her face turning bright red. “Jesus. Stop.”
I laughed and pinched one of her flushed cheeks. “God, you’re so cute when you blush,” I told her. Kissing her temple, I let my fingers gently stroke up and down her smooth arm. “I love you,” I whispered.
“I love you, too,” she answered automatically, and kissed my lips sweetly.
Another meaningful smirk tugged the corners of my mouth as a realisation hit me. I pulled back a little to look at my beautiful girlfriend. “I have to say, though, you’re a great substitute as James’s big sister. You should do it more often.”
She dipped her head, bit my shoulder lightly and snorted. “Shut up.”
“So what do you think of exchanging roles for a while? You being James’s confidant, sister, playmate, sounding board to all his pervy little ideas. Sounds inviting, eh?”
“Shut up, Em.” She gave my shoulder another playful bite.
“But seriously, babe, it’s true,” I said, struggling to keep an earnest face. “You’ve done a really good job. If that was me, I would’ve disconnected right away. I should congratulate you for putting up with him a little longer than expected.”
Naomi had on that smug smirk. “What can I say? As James puts it, I’m a sensible, understanding adult.”
With a scowl, it was my turn to disagree. “Oh, shut up.”
The blonde was laughing too hard to manage a response.