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Pivotal Moments - Chapter Two

Aislinn explains the fight

As I stomped down the stairs I muttered under my breath about the stupidity and insensitivity of the male species. My brother was definitely one that made you want to rethink getting involved with a guy; he was about as sensitive as a freaking rock. I kept tromping down the stairs, grumbling. Reaching the bottom step, I froze. There it was, standing guard, almost like it was waiting for me.

The beast.

I did not want to go near that thing. I watched as it took a step forward and blinked before sitting down. I tensed, waiting to see what its next move was. I was fully prepared to bolt if necessary, my pride was already in tatters and therefore I had nothing left to lose. I had no problem hauling ass, screaming like the hounds of hell were after me. Which, in a way, they would be.

The dog, Zver I think its name was, shook its head and did a snuffling sneeze. It was so loud that I jumped in surprise. Still watching me, it lolled out its tongue and I had the suspicion that it was laughing at me in amusement, which caused me to stiffen up with indignant offense.

“Zver! Sidet!” a deep voice commanded from the kitchen area.

Flushing, I peered cautiously around the corner and saw that Mr. Goodness himself was there, looking at Zver with a stern expression. Good lord that man was hot! I wondered if Mom had done something with the A/C because it was suddenly insanely warm in the house. I absolutely refused to consider that there might be another explanation for the temperature change. No, Mom had definitely fiddled with the thermostat. I sighed in relief when I saw Teagan turn away and head back down the hall.

Eyeing the large dog, I took a deep breath, steeled myself and stepped down onto the main floor. I paused as I saw Zver tense like he was going to stand up. From deep in the recesses of my memory I recalled that you didn’t want to stare them in the eye and that you should use a firm voice when commanding them. I glanced away but I refused to be completely cowed. I took a deep breath.

“Let’s try to come to some sort of truce here, OK? I’m not afraid of you, Zver!” I stole a peek through the corner of my eye and saw him looking at me, head cocked as if puzzled. I wasn’t sure what that meant but it was going to look at it as a positive.

Zver settled back down, ears pricked forward still, his tail thumping. Definitely non-threatening. Definitely a good sign.

“Now, while you’re here how about I give you half my plate of food at each meal? Sound good? I need to lose weight and you get yummy people food.” His tail thumped harder and his tongue rolled out again. “All you have to do is not jump on me…you scared me when you did that.” I chastised.

When his head lowered to his paws and his tail stop thumping, I won’t lie I felt like a piece of shit. Wow. He really knew how to work a human. Damn dog.

“You don’t need to lose weight, you know.” I yelped and jumped back, the bottom step catching me at the ankles and causing me to sit in self-defense. Clutching my chest, I turned and blushed. Again. With a front row view stood Mr. Shmexy, AKA Teagan, his back propping up the wall to the right of the doorway, legs crossed at the ankles. He looked casual, cool and way too delectable for my peace of mind. My display of gracefulness had provoked a smirk and when I met his amused gaze he leaned forward slightly and I felt another rush of warmth. We looked at each other in silence for a long moment before it dawned on me that I had no idea how long he had been watching me. He had walked back to the kitchen hadn’t he?

Oh god. Had he watched me the whole time I had been talking to the dog? Embarrassment caused another fiery flush to my cheeks.

“Ryadom!” Teagan said firmly, patting his thigh. Zver stood up with a groan, shook out his fur and ambled over the few steps. The large dog stopped in front of Teagan and sat on its haunches watching its owner expectantly. Teagan grinned at him, reached out and rubbed behind his ear with a firm hand. The dog tilted his head to the side for better access with a deep canine groan.

I watched, fascinated and more than a little jealous. Yeah, I was kinda wishing it was me. If a dog could show such satisfaction under those hands I could only imagine how they would feel on my body. Oh My God, that train of thought really needed to derail. Like right now. Shaking myself out of the trance I had fallen into I brought my gaze back to Teagan. I smiled awkwardly when I saw him watching me. Well, now that I had his attention, what was I supposed to do with it? The sound of the dog licking his chops and shuffling closer to his owner gave me an idea.

“Mom claims that,” I said pointing at Zver, “is a dog. But I’ve never seen one that big before.” I finished, disbelief lacing my tone.

A small smile quirked Teagan’s lips. “Trust me, he’s a dog.” he said, sinking his hand deeper into the fur around its ears. “He’s a Caucasian Mountain Shepherd.” he clarified.

I raised my eyebrows, silently asking for more information.

“They’re from Caucasus Mountains originally. They were used to guard the livestock from predators. Then Russians started using them as prison guard dogs a while back.” he finished.

I looked at the massive dog next to his equally large master and the thought crossed my mind that animals supposedly reflected their owners.

“If they’re prison guard dogs, why do you have one?” I asked curious. Just how similar were they?

Teagan looked down at the animal currently leaning its weight onto him and grinned “Caucasians are also great family dogs.”

I eyed him with quite a bit of skepticism in my gaze and he let out a low chuckle.

“I’m serious! They view their adopted family as part of their pack. Children especially; the dogs guard them just like they would a pack’s pups.” He paused and ran a hand through his hair, causing it to messily fall all over his forehead. “The only problem is that the males are extremely alpha. You have to establish unyielding dominance with them.”

My concentration tripped and nearly slid into a wall. So much potential for an over-active imagination like the one I possessed. The problem was, given the smile that was on his face, my thoughts were probably clearly read on my face. Awesome.

Just as I opened my mouth to respond, although Lord knew what I intended to say, my mother stomped around the corner. Her annoyance was radiating off of her and I shrank under her glare. I had a feeling no matter how old I got, she’d always be able to control me with that ‘look’. I think it was her eyes that made it so effective. Something about her golden brown eyes could make a charging bull stop dead in its tracks. Her eyes only turned that deep burning gold when she was pissed. It was actually pretty cool unless you were on the receiving end of it. Then it was just freaky scary and you’d do whatever she wanted so she’d stop staring at you.

“There you are!” she exclaimed. “Are you ready to grace us with your presence now?” she huffed. “And where the hell is your brother?” Mom was cool and all, but she hated to be kept waiting.

Before I could respond, Connor pounded down the stairs, jumping the last three and landing with a solid thud. “Sorry, Mom! I’m here!” he apologized to Mom and then looked over at Teagan. “Hey Teeg! - My buddy Jace called. He said they’re all going out to the lake tomorrow. You game?”

Teagan shrugged “Sure, man.” A fist bump settled it and off to the table we went. I trailed behind, both admiring my view of Teagan and glancing worriedly beside me as Zver kept pace by my side. The dog seemed to have decided that it needed to attach itself to me I suppose. I’d deal with that issue later.

* *** *

We had just gotten settled at the table and finished dishing up the food when Mom looked at me from the other side of the round time. “So, Miss Aislinn, are you ready to explain the call I received from your school today?” All sound ceased. I looked up and Connor was gaping at me. An expression of glee crept over his face. Let the taunting begin.

Connor whipped his head toward Mom so fast it was a wonder that it remained attached. “Seriously?” He bounced, bounced! In his seat! “You aren’t screwin’ with me, right? Please don’t mess with me like that Mom! The school actually called you about Ash?”

Whoop. There it is. I was a bit offended that he was so excited about this.

“Connor… settle down.” Mom sighed. “They called and said that she had started a fight at school today.”

“That is so no-!” I defended, only to be interrupted by Connor’s “No fucking away! Holy shit!”

I could feel a headache building.

“Connor! Enough! Let her explain.” Mom ordered. Frowning, Connor sat back in his seat.

Teagan sat through the exchange silently watching. The concern and confusion was clear in his expression.

“It wasn’t like that, butt munch.” I told my brother, rolling my eyes. He had always been in trouble in High School, whereas I never got in trouble. I was Miss Honor Roll; the Good Girl.

Connor frowned and sent me a half-hearted glare. “Well, enlighten us then, Miss Goody Goody.”

I opened my mouth to respond with an insult of my own but Mom’s warning glare made me rethink my approach to the situation. I sighed, slumping in defeat. I wasn’t ashamed of what I did; I just didn’t feel like listening to any shit from my brother for the rest of his and Teagan’s Spring Break. However, it was probably better to just get it over with. “OK. All right. So my gym class is year-mixed. We have Freshman through Seniors in it right?” I paused and the three of them nodded. “Well, the younger girls have a hard time. This senior, Tracey Banco, is such a bitch – “

“Aislinn Munroe!” Mom broke in. “Watch your language!”

I huffed, annoyed. “She is, Mom! If you met her you’d agree. She’s Miss Popular, tall, stunning, cheerleader; dates the captain of the football team…she’s a living cliché.” I may have sounded a little bitter. I kinda was. Brody Holden was gorgeous. I wouldn’t turn him away. Although, Teagan Aldridge was quickly taking his place. Connor clearing his throat brought me back to the present.

“Anyways, Tracey likes to torture the younger girls, tease them about their weight, make fun of their clothes, their hair, their make-up…She’s made I don’t know how many of them cry the last three years that I’ve been there!”

“Has anyone said something to any of the teachers or anything?” Mom asked, concern radiating from her.

I rolled my eyes. “Please. Are you serious? I’ve said something to them twice now. That’s not counting all the others! The teachers don’t do anything to her, though. It’s like she’s untouchable or something!” I suddenly realized I had clenched my fists and relaxed them. “Anyways, today we were in the locker room after gym. Once our class is over the boys’ class comes in, just so you know.” I added as an aside.

Taking a deep breath, I could feel the tears trying to come and sat up straighter. I snuck a glance over at Teagan, he nodded for me to continue. “There’s this girl, Jackie, in our class. She’s a Freshman. She’s just so sweet. Nice to everyone and always laughing…but she’s a little overweight, like me, and really self-conscious about it. When she changes for class she kinda hides behind the lockers and stuff? Well, today Tracey was feeling bitchier than usual, I guess.” I frowned and swallowed hard. I was still upset. “Jackie was still in her underwear when Tracey and some of her friends grabbed her, tossed her through the door into the gym and slammed it shut and locked her out.”

“What the fuck?” Connor yelled and I could hear my Mom gasp in horror. Teagan’s face turned bright red in anger. I could feel the tears welling as I nodded. “All of the boys were out there, laughing and hooting and yelling out at her, clapping…Jackie was screaming and sobbing, begging Tracey to let her in and Tracey just leaned against the door, laughing.”

I stopped and wiped away the tears running down my cheeks. “I told her to let Jackie back in, but she just made some stupid comment about how I must be a loser too since I wasn’t laughing and that if I wasn’t careful she’d do it to me too. I told her to move again and she flipped me off and told me to get my ‘fat ass’ out of her business. That’s when I lost it, Mom. I…” I lost my voice for a moment and felt the rage once again. I looked at Connor for a second. “That’s when I jumped her. I punched her in the face. She was stunned for a second and I moved back, so she followed me. I punched her again and yelled at the other girls to let Jackie in. Tracey was bleeding, the coach rushed in…” I stopped talking and tried to clear my throat.

“Aislinn-“ my mom started but I interrupted. “I’m not sorry I did it Mom. You always say the tongue is like a sharp knife…it kills without drawing blood. I don’t want Jackie to end up like a lot of the girls that get bullied! I wanted her to know that someone gave a shit!” I was breathing hard now, angry and upset. “I would and will do it again. Tracey deserved it.” I sat back in my chair, crossed my arms over my chest and glared defiantly at the table, waiting for the butt chewing that I figured was going to come now.

Events of the day replayed in my mind and I was so involved in my thoughts that I jumped in surprise when I felt hands gripping my shoulders, encouraging me to stand. Once I realized who it was I finally broke down and started sobbing. Connor wrapped his arms around me and I buried my face in his shoulder. “I’m proud of you, sis. You did the right thing.” He gently stroked my hair before pulling back slightly to look at me. He smiled softly and gently wiped the tears off my face before leaning forward and said quietly, “Dad would be proud of you, too.” It’s like he knew that I needed to hear that. He could be an awesome brother sometimes.

Smiling through my tears I hugged him tighter and then felt our mother join in, her tears soaking my shoulder. “You’re a good girl, Aislinn. You’re not in trouble.”

I gave her a watery smile. Connor gave me a last squeeze and let us go. “Thank you, Mom. I just did what you and Dad taught me.” Mom nodded.

Clearing his throat to end the awkward moment, Connor rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. He was like Dad; not really all that good with softer emotions. He got uncomfortable quickly and people who didn’t know him always thought he was an insensitive prick. Sometimes he definitely was, but those instances were usually deliberate. I knew his basic nature though. He nodded his head to himself and glanced over at Teagan before looking back at me.

“Why don’t you come to the lake with us tomorrow?”

My eyebrows shot to my hairline in shock. Connor never asked me to go anywhere like that with him. I was the Little Sister, forever costing him cool points if he were ever seen at such a location with me. I looked over at Mom and saw she was just as surprised as I was. Then she narrowed her eyes and the two almost seemed to be having a conversation without me.

“Connor? Could I talk to you in the other room? Now.” Mom had used The Tone and not even Connor would ignore that one. He sighed and followed her into the living room. I could hear them talking, heard my name, but I couldn’t make anything out. Either they were deliberately talking low, or my eavesdropping skills seriously sucked.

Sighing, I looked down at the table and then at the man still seated opposite me. He looked a bit uncomfortable and I smiled slightly. “Welcome to the Munroe House. All the excitement and drama you can handle, or more if I’m honest.” I let out a nervous laugh.

He chuckled for a moment and then sighed. “It’s all right. I have two younger sisters and an older brother. There was never peace in our house, either.”

Well, that explained why he said something to Connor earlier when I was in my room. He was used to dealing with teen-aged girls, I suppose. Still didn’t change the fact that it was humiliating though.

"Doesn’t change the fact that it’s a little embarrassing. It was worse when Connor was still at home, if you can believe it!” I laughed and then glanced at him. “Sorry... I shouldn’t tell Connor’s secrets, huh?”

He waved it off and stood from his seat. “I’m guessing dinner is over, eh?” I nodded. “OK, let’s clean up then.”

* *** *

Teagan and I worked together, putting away the leftovers. I turned to put another container in the fridge and tripped, for the fourth time, and almost fell over the monster begging at my knee. Zver was literally following my every step. I couldn’t get around the room without either pushing him out of the way or nearly falling over him because he was so quiet I forgot he was there.

“Oh for Pete’s sake!” I burst out, losing patience. “Here! Enjoy!” I slapped the plate filled with scraps down in front of Zver, more than a little irritated. The dog looked at me, ears perked, eyes wide and his body practically wiggling he was wagging his tail so forcefully I couldn’t help but smile at him. He took my smile as permission and started scarfing down the food.

I heard a tsk and looked up to see Teagan shaking his head. “You shouldn’t have done that.”

I frowned. “Why not?”

“He’s going to expect food from you every time you sit down to eat.” he replied, shrugging.

“Oh.”

He nodded, “Yeah. Oh.” looked down at Zver, he grinned and walked to the sun-room door that was off the kitchen. He opened the door and glanced at the dog before gesturing and saying, “Gulyat!” Zver quickly stood up and trotted out the door.

Closing the door behind the dog, Teagan turned to me and studied me for a long moment. I hated being stared at and squirmed under his gaze. Finally, not being able to take it any longer I said the first thing that came to mind.

“Why do you use Russian when you talk to Zver? It is Russian right?” I stammered out.

He raised an eyebrow at my question. “He was trained with it. Because it’s Russian no one will know how to command him, only me.”

I was impressed. “That’s kind brilliant.”

“I know.” He smiled. “I’ve been told that many times.”

“Wow. We really need to work on your self-confidence!” I stated with a grin.

He laughed and was beginning to reply when Connor came back into the kitchen. You could tell he had been running his hands through his hair. It was a nervous habit he had.

“Now that’s over with, are you coming with us tomorrow?” you could tell he was agitated.

I bit my lip nervously. I would have to wear a swimsuit in front of both Teagan and Connor’s other friends. This was not my idea of fun. Yeah, I had some self-image issues. You try being 5’3” and wear a size 14 and see how confident you are, OK?

“I don’t know, Con. I mean, I haven’t even asked Mom. She probably won’t let me go.”

Connor waved me off. “Mom’s OK with it. It’s fine.”

“Um…” I wasn’t sure I could do it. I could feel acid churning in my stomach.

Teagan walked over and leaned against the counter next to where I was standing. “I don’t know anyone there except Con. It’d be cool if you came? Have someone else to hang with, you know?”

Teagan was asking me to go with them tomorrow. For him. He’d also been watching me since I’d gotten home. It was stirring up a lot of familiar feelings and I desperately didn’t want it to turn out like every other time I’d thought someone of the boy persuasion was interested in me. I’d discovered the hard way that the boys from my school that seemed to have the cojones to talk to me, only wanted some help with their homework. More than once I had been embarrassed in a highly mortifying but thankfully private way because I had thought the boy in question had a genuine interest in me.

But each time, the boy had only wanted to copy the class lecture notes from the nerd in his class. The first time was so humiliating that I never acted on it again, no matter how sure I was that someone might be interested in me. Jimmy had been shocked but in the end kind of sweet and never mentioned it again. Thank goodness for the short attention span of teenage boys. They were easily distracted by something shiny or sports related and move on. Being in high school definitely had its benefits; it never took long for something else of a dramatic nature to happen and for the most part memories were short.

The only person I ever had any problem with in High School was Tracey. Middle School had been a breeze and even Freshman year hadn’t been too bad. But she’d shown up sophomore year and promptly took over the Bitch Brigade. I didn’t show up on her radar until this year for some reason, even though we’d had quite a few classes together and ever since then she seems to have developed a love for torturing me. Her favorite thing to pass the time with was saying I was overweight and that was why I couldn’t even make it into the friend zone with any of the guys in our class. Not that I was really all that interested in anyone. But still, it hurt, even though I tried to not let it show.

However, it had been ages since anyone had looked at me with even an academic interest and the heat I’d seen in Teagan’s gaze had nothing to do with my brain… did it?

My mind raced over everything that had happened since I pulled up in front of the house. I couldn’t believe how cool Connor was being concerning Teagan and his other friends. Brotherly concern aside, when he had friends over he was usually all ‘Big Brother’ and as a group they had all actively ignored the bratty little sister. There had been the odd tussle after I would leave the room but boys were weird when it came to how they could be fighting one second and best buds the next. When we were out and ran into boys that he knew, none of them would hang out, not even his closest friends.

Tracey’s hateful taunting rang through my head and then I remembered Teagan mentioning his younger sisters. I recalled how he’d talked to Connor when he was acting like a dick. Suddenly, I froze. That was why Connor didn’t have a problem with Teagan and was inviting me along to the lake! My body chilled and I felt a little nauseated. God! I was so stupid! Teagan would never be interested in me. I was his best friend’s little sister. Not only that but he had two younger sisters at home.

Ah geez! He’d probably set me in the little sister category as soon as they walked in the door and he saw me freaking out. Little sister… Ugh, that was worse than being friend zoned. I felt a lump forming in my throat and the back of my nose felt stuffy and burning. I had never stood a chance.

I swallowed the lump and blinked hard against another wave of tears. It was for the best really. I needed to keep my head focused on school if I was going to keep that scholarship for college. Just a few more months and if I kept my grades up, I was going to my first choice college. I needed this, not just for me, but for Dad too.

“Christ! Ash! Are you going with us or not?” Connor demanded impatiently. I jumped a little as my brother’s harsh demand yanked me rudely out of my thoughts.

I stared a hole in the floor and stayed quiet, debating my options. If I went I’d have to wear a swimsuit and more than likely most of Con’s friends would be there, probably with their girlfriends. I could feel the panic starting to make my palms sweat. There was no way I could go and subject myself to that. I emphatically shook my head no. No way. I took a step back when I saw that Connor’s face had turned bright red and his fists were clenched. He was pissed and I had a feeling that it was more than me not wanting to go with them.

“Aislinn, I’m going to tell you one time only. You’re coming with us. You will not fake an illness, you will not lock yourself in your room and you will not dress like a nun.” he growled from between clenched teeth. “The days of allowing you to be a social outcast are over.”

My face burned in embarrassment and I opened my mouth to protest as I looked at where Teagan still stood, leaning against the counter, watching intently as the scene unfolded. I had never wanted to leave a place so badly in my life! I started to step around Connor but he moved in front of me. I tried to go the other way, but he moved again.

“Why are you fighting me, Ash? What are you so afraid of? You need to make some friends!”

I opened my mouth to refute his words and tell him I had friends, but then closed it when I saw him raise an eyebrow in anticipation of what I was going to say. I hung my head and fought the tears that were building.

“Please, Connor. I just want to stay home, OK?” I pleaded. Looking at him though, I knew that this’d had no effect.

He shook his head. “No. You’re going with us. Be ready by 9, it’s a two hour drive to the lake.”

Now I was getting pissed. I did not want to go! Why couldn’t he understand this? “You’re being an asswipe, Connor! I’m not going and that’s final!”

Out of the corner of her eye I saw Teagan straighten up from the counter and rub the back of his neck with a sigh. “I think it’d be a blast if you came with us, Aislinn. I think you’d have fun and I’d have another person I know there, like I said.” Using both hands, he scrubbed his face and took a deep breath. “If you don’t want to go simply because you don’t like the lake or something related then don’t go.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and leaned back against the counter again. “But if you’re not going because you’re avoiding something or you’re scared then you should definitely be with us. Get over whatever it is.”

I paused, thinking about what he was saying and how it made sense. Oh God, a boy made sense! That was scary. I looked over at him and he gave me a smile that probably had panties dropping in a 20 mile radius.

“So?” he asked. “You coming?”

Feeling that this was going to be a bad idea, I slowly nodded in the affirmative.

“Thank you! For fucks sake Ash! It’s the lake! What is the big deal?” I could only stare at Connor. How was it he became a bigger asshole by the hour? And here I had been thinking just a little while ago that he was actually kind of awesome.

I ignored him and said a quiet good night to Teagan and started toward the stairs. I almost fell up the stairs when I heard Connor call out to me.

“Ash! Don’t you dare forget your bathing suit or I’ll make you swim in your underwear!”

Stumbling up the stairs, horror encased me. I was going to be wearing a swimsuit. I was going to be wearing it in front of Teagan. Oh God, what did I do to deserve this?

Author's Note(s):

Russian Commands:

Sidet (see-DET): Sit

Ryadom (RJA-dom): Heel

Gulyat (gu-LJAT): Out

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © In Time Series Copyright © 2015 by Trinity Hanrahan
Ease Your Mind Copyright © 2018 by Trinity Hanrahan
Cover by Trinity Hanrahan
Photo by Jessica Janae (jessicajanaephotography.com) - PM & DM
Photo from DepositPhotos.com - EYM
Editing by Charlotte Dhark & L. McAteer
Beta Reading by V. Smith, K. Napolitano, L. McAteer

All rights reserved. This piece of fiction or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Photo taken by Jessica Janae and is currently the sole property of said photographer.

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