Relationship Troubles
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Chapter 41: Relationship Troubles

One would think that if one had a whole extra day off from classes, that one would be spending it having fun. Alarie was not having fun. She was miserable.

The previous evening had gotten off to a good start when she was reunited with Rafael. Illyana, who had been moping around since her break-up was even having a good time with a new guy, so how could Alarie not encourage a hook up for her friend?

Rafael could think of a few reasons, and as soon as they were alone together he had expressed his vast disapproval with them leaving Illyana with none other than Marshall Cosgrove. He argued that Marshall was an asshole and his attentions were always bad news. Alarie insisted Rafael was being dramatic. They fought. She eventually decided not to spend the night like she had originally intended to and waited for Illyana to return.

However, Illyana did not and that was when she began to worry. She ended up taking a taxi to her parents' house. Her father worked in law enforcement and she wanted him near in case Illyana didn't turn up safe and sound.

Even fifty-eight texts later, Illyana still hadn't answered, but Alarie was surprised to find that Raphael did swallow his anger at her and reach out.

Rafael: Marshall came back

Me: Illyana w/ him?!?

Rafael: No :/

Me: WHERE IS SHE???


Rafael put her through a grueling ten-minute wait before responding.

Rafael: He says she left the bar with Nick Calhoun. Nick is a good guy though, so I wouldn t worry

It took Alarie a moment to remember that 'Nick Calhoun' was the same person they all knew as Nick Hart. Alarie raised an eyebrow at Rafael's statement. The Nick she had known was always somewhat selfish and egotistical. She highly doubted they had hooked up but couldn't help but to wonder. In any case, she knew Illyana could handle Nick--they had been friends long before the Thackery family moved to Isla Del Kashmire.

But Alarie's worry had spiraled into frustration by the time morning came around; Illyana still hadn't texted her back and her calls kept only going to voicemail. She didn't know Nick's number but if she had, she would have called him and demand he put her friend on the line just to confirm she was okay.

So here she was, on her day off from classes--alone, frustrated, and staring at her lump of a brother who was sleeping in the middle of the living room right where she had left him two mornings ago when she had left to go to Pandora.


"Antoine, you are a fool," she blurted.

Her elder brother stirred and opened his eyes to see her looming above him from behind one of the sofas with a cup of coffee in hand, clenching the handle.

"Wha--?" he blinked tiredly with confusion.

"You could have slept in our old room last night. There was an extra bed. Why are you still bumming in the living room?"

Antoine made a few grumbles and mumbles, stretching his arms over his head, seeming annoyed that she had woken him up asking questions and now was making sensible points. Alarie should just mind her own damn business for once. He soon halted his stretching, propped himself up on his elbows, and put his full attention on her.

"What s with your hair?"

Alarie's frown deepend. She didn't appreciate how he avoided her question and then made it sound like her hair was weird. It was rather voluminous at the moment.

"Leona doesn't mess around when it comes to braids, and I just took them out this morning. But stop deflecting--why are you still sleeping in the living room?"


She shouldn't have mentioned Leona's name because her brother's face lit up and it nearly broke her heart because he didn't know what Leona had done. Alarie made a movement to leave the room, "Fine if you don't have a reason, I'm just assuming you forgot we had an extra bed. You need to come home more often before you forget everything."

"No, I remembered but it's just I thought Alanna would be staying over again so assumed the room was full. Did Leona come back with you?"

Alarie froze in her steps. She should have just kept on walking and pretended not to hear the note of eagerness in his voice. She took a sip of her coffee and then sighed.

"No, she's not here. She got an offer to tour with Edric King while we were in Pandora and took it."

"How long will that be for? She said she would come look at apartments with me this week. I have a few today scheduled," Antoine frowned slightly at the news. She didn't know so just shrugged to show it.

"I wouldn't keep waiting around for her, Antoine. She's always going to pick her career over you and do anything she needs to get famous," Alarie advised sadly.

"Why would you say that? You're the one that told me she would even be here in the first place!" He sat up fully, bringing his knees under himself to sit on them and stared hard at her for an explanation for her change in heart. She had been nearly as giddy as he was to have them to be in the same place at the same time in over a year.

Alarie felt like a horrible sister, and maybe she just was for getting his hopes so high only to crush them. She had wanted her brother and friend to be together--they had always seemed like a perfect match but maybe it just wasn't meant to be, not after Leona had spent the night with Edric King.

"I'm sorry," was all she could say and did leave the room that time. Her words left Antoine staring after her with an expression of bewildered sadness but a growing inkling of what she meant by her apology.



--------

Alanna, on the other hand wasn't necessarily miserable but was restless, unfocused, and had been ever since she had left Franz's room at the community college. She knew Alarie wouldn't be one to give her sound advice, and in all actuality would make fun of her if she brought up her feelings for Franz but she needed to talk to someone about her sudden burst of desires and get advice about it. So she called her brother.

"Hey 'Lanna, what's up?" he said when he answered. She could hear a faint echoing so figured he had her on speakerphone; she heard a car honk. He was driving.

"Oh, I wanted to see if you had time to talk about something--" she said and the connection crackled with static or some other interference before she could hear clearly again.

"Hello?"

"Hey! So I'm on my way to Memosa Bay to look at apartments. I just drove through the tunnel under the river so it cut you off."

"Oh, that's exciting! I didn't know you were moving," Alanna replied cheerily though her issue at hand was still very distracting and gnawing at her to voice it to someone.

"Yeah. Hey, did you want to come with me? I could use a second opinion and you're the smartest person I know," he offered and it made Alanna smile. "After me, of course."

He just had to go ruin the nice moment with his brotherly teasing. She rolled her eyes and thought about it. It wouldn t be so bad to hang out with Antoine for a bit. It had been a long while since she spent quality time with her elder brother and besides, she couldn t focus on studying at the moment. Maybe an opportunity would present itself during his apartment hunt where she could bring it up to him!

"Sure. I'll tag along!"

Antoine picked her up from her dormitory at the SSU campus and they proceeded north to Memosa Bay. He talked about his work, his reasons for moving, his experiences from the different places he had traveled and Alanna listened politely with great interest the entire ride, but the thoughts of Franz were still nagging at the brim of her consciousness.

They pulled in front of a three-story apartment building on the east side of the city, it was a few blocks from the heart of the downtown. Antoine had a rental car paid for by his company; he didn't need his own car since he was always travelling and the buses were a decent option to get around otherwise. Alarie and Alanna even still relied on the bus lines.

"What's your first impression?" Antoine asked putting his hands on his hips and craned his head back to take the view of it in.

"I think it looks nice," Alanna replied.

"You think everything is nice."

She stopped and gave him an annoyed look. Why did everyone always accuse her of that? True, it was easy for her to find the good or beauty in things but it was incorrect to say she thought everything was 'nice.'

They met with the apartment s manager an older woman who was very chipper and welcoming on behalf of hoping to rent out to Antoine. She showed them into one of the ground floor units.


"This one is the only available apartment at the moment. It's one bedroom, one bath," she explained as Alanna and Antoine looked around the main room in consideration. To Alanna, it was adequate, though she felt it was bit small for Antoine. He always needed room for tinkering with robotic parts and other electronic items, and this place looked like it lacked room for that necessity.

"Does the unit have laundry?"

"Unfortunately, no--we do not have washers and dryers to rent per unit but there is a common area on the second floor that has these facilities, the manager stated.

Antoine nodded in understanding and rubbed his hands together, turning to Alanna, "Should we go take a look?"

Alanna didn't see why they needed to but agreed. The manager made a move to lead them to the area but Antoine insisted they could go alone to see the laundry area. She seemed a bit put-off but allowed them to go without her.

They climbed a spiral staircase to the laundry area but it was pretty small too--two sets of shiny green washers and dryers stacked upon each other and then a table in the corner to fold clothes on. It looked like one of the apartments' residents had left a basket of laundry sitting underneath but was no where in sight.

"What?" Alanna asked her brother because it was clear to her he wanted to get her alone to discuss something without the manager hearing.

"I think it's too small," he blurted her very thought on the matter.

"Okay, then tell her you were looking for something with more space and thank her for her time," Alanna instructed, unsure of what his internal dilemma was exactly. "Besides, don't you spend most weeks travelling for your job? It's not like you will actually live in your apartment a majority of the time."

He twisted his lips into an unsure expression, "Well I think I may getting promoted after I m done with my next demonstration tour."


"Really!? That's so exciting! So, does that mean you will be in Kashmire more often?" Alanna felt a surge of happiness at the news. She had missed Antoine while he was away for his job. Not that she had much free time either with school but she did go to her parents' nearly every weekend and it would be nice to have family dinners like Franz did with his sister and mother.

"I'm pretty sure I will be. This apartment is a fifteen-minute walk from the headquarters and only five by bus."

"Is being cramped up in a small apartment worth the reduced commute?" Alanna wondered. She wouldn't think so, personally, but the reality was that she did. She made do in her small dorm room that she shared with another girl. It saved money and it was nearly a five-minute walk to all her classes which was extremely helpful if she accidentally slept past her alarm.

Antoine didn't answer right away, seeming to weigh the question in his mind, "I guess I'd rather have more space, just in case..." he cut himself off; the rest of his thought was not spoken.

"Well, what other apartments are you looking at today?" Alanna asked, to urge him back on track, though still curious to what he was going to say about wanting more room.

"There's a duplex further west I was supposed to check out," he answered.

That sounded like a lot more space. Expensive too.

"I guess if you don;t want to give up on this place, you can just let the manager know you will call her if you decide to rent it," Alanna suggested and Antoine seemed to think that was a decent way to leave it for now. Antoine wasn't the most decisive person she knew. He fretted often in his teen years between decisions as minor as what to eat for breakfast. He had gotten a lot better though, and she supposed that just came with growing up.

The next place to check out was across town and right next to the largest park in Kashmire. It wasn't the average manicured park they would usually spot in a city. It had a large swimming lake, many trees, and some hiking trails. It was beautiful, how the city of Memosa Bay could preserve such a piece of land in the middle of the bustling metropolis.


It was clear Antoine really liked this option he clasped his hands together in approval at the sight of the building exterior. It looked roomy from the outside at least. Since they were not meeting anyone for a tour of the vacant duplex, Antoine found a key lock container and punched in a code so that the container would open and retrieve the key. He explained that he received the code from the owner when he called to inquire about the vacancy.

Alanna immediately liked this place more than the small apartment as well. The kitchen was nice and roomy, and there was a lofted area above that looked over the main room. She could imagine living in a place like this with Franz in the future--and he could bake all the chocolate chip cookies she could ask for--

She had to put the breaks on such a thought, realizing she was indeed daydreaming about living with Franz. That was a new development. It also made her realize the probable reason her brother wanted more room. Leona. Was he going to propose to her?

Promotion at work.

Being in Kashmire more often.

Bigger place to live.


It made sense to Alanna that was what would be going down soon and she prickled with intense joy for them. It didn't escape her notice that Leona had lingered downstairs with her brother the other night.

"I like it a lot," Alanna blurted her opinion.

"I do too," Antoine smiled.

"I think Leona would as well."

She thought that by mentioning Leona, that he would be happy to dish on his plans, which she assumed to be something romantic. He had always been so taken with Leona Hillenburg, ever since he was in high school. Okay, maybe he wouldn't propose marriage right off--it was a well-known fact Leona's father hated Antoine but she always thought Antoine and Leona were a good couple and, in all honesty, was a bit jealous.

However, her speaking Leona's name didn't send his face into an expression of joy but of forlorn sadness.


"What's the matter?" she asked as he crossed his arms and turned away, "I thought you two made up the other night?"

"We did but--"

"But what?"

"I don't know. It's something Alarie said to me this morning."

Alanna frowned. Alarie had a sharp tongue and often didn t think before she spoke. She had learned to shrug off Alarie's words years ago and not let them get to her.

Antoine gave a sigh, "She said I shouldn't wait around for Leona because Leona is always going to choose her career over me."

Alanna felt a prick of anger at Alarie for telling him such a thing and make him lose hope. Alarie was just being sour grapes and she got that way if she was having her own relationship problems. Alanna put a comforting hand on his shoulder, "Don't listen to Alarie. She was probably just in a bad mood."

He considered her words but then said quietly, "Leona is now touring with Edric King so it may be while before she's back in town."

That was shocking news to Alanna! She had heard of Edric King; some of the girls in her dorm had pictures of him in their rooms. From what she did know, he was as handsome as they came. Then she understood the other half of her brother's worried sadness.

"Leona wouldn't hook up with Edric King."

"How can you be so sure? He's a star! He has money, looks, and we all know Leona would do anything to achieve her singing dreams! I'm sure King has lots of connections, Antoine all but bitterly exploded, stunning Alanna enough that she took a step back.

After a beat, Alanna's brow plunged into a deep frown, "Leona is tenacious but she's not going to sleep her way to fame. That's not who she is. You wouldn't love her if you actually believed that."

He seemed to take in a few breaths to calm himself and nodded, "You're right."

He walked in circle, considering the room but not really looking at it. Wiped his hand over his mouth and in a fluid motion rubbed the back of his neck. He looked to his sister again and repeated, "You're right. Thank you."

"For what?"

"Not letting me doubt Leona. I should be thrilled for her--she is doing what she loves," he actually smiled that time. Alanna gave a small smile and nod in reply. She was the best at bringing a good mood back to her family and friends, and maybe that's why people always assumed she thought everything was nice too.

They climbed the stairs to the lofted area and saw there was a set of double doors that led out to a small balcony. Alanna unlocked them and emerged outside.



She made a squeal of delight all of a sudden as the sun broke from behind some clouds and revealed the amazing view this place had. There weren't a lot of tall buildings in front of it like the first apartment, which allowed a sweeping glance across the city toward the skyscrapers that were further away. Because it was on the edge of the park, there were also an abundance of trees on the side, giving off the feeling one was living in a forest.

"Antoine, you gotta get this place! Look at this view!"

Anotine laughed, "I see it, I see it. It's a bit over my budget--but--"

"But--if you get that promotion?"

"Yeah, I could rent here no problem," he crossed his arms and grinned. Alanna flashed her teeth in a smile. She didn't know why she was so excited, it wasn't like she was moving into the place but her imagination wandered back to the scenario of her and Franz laughing and baking together in the large kitchen or sitting on this balcony and cuddling while looking at the sun setting behind the distant skyscrapers and high rises. It filled her with a warm, happy, melting feeling. Plumbobs, what was she? A slice of butter?

"What's with that smile?"

"What?" Alanna's daydream broke and she realized Antoine was regarding her with a puzzled grin.

"I don't know, I just never seen someone look so happy about real estate."

Alanna took a few steps back and propped herself up to sit on the edge of the balcony. It was a half wall, thick enough to hold her weight. The sunshine dimmed a bit, as did her smile because the fact was Franz didn t know anything about what she felt. She didn't even know if he would return the feelings. She didn't even know if she was brave enough to tell him...if this was, in fact, the real deal.

"How do you know if you are in love?"

Antoine's brows rose to his hairline and he nearly choked out a surprised laugh, "Say what?"

"Love. How can you tell the difference between it and simple infatuation?"

Antoine took a seat next to her and studied her, "Why are you all of a sudden asking me this?"

Antoine was smart but he could be thick. Why else would she be asking him?

She swallowed the lump in her throat because she finally was about to tell someone, outloud, the feelings that had been growing inside of her. Franz occupied the majority of her thoughts, he was featured in all her day dreams, and it was exciting--wonderful--but terribly confusing because she'd never felt so strongly for a man before. She'd always been too practical to get involved with a serious romance, or rather, too inexperienced and frightened to start one. So she sighed.

"I think, I may be in love."


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