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He's My Brother's Best Friend

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Annabelle Hopkins' life goes downhill when her parents get divorced, but another blow hits her when her mother and older brother die in an auto crash.  still shaken with grief, but she has to put back the pieces of her life and move in with her estranged father, who is a multi-millionaire.  A new environment and a new school are too overwhelming for her, but then she meets Carson, her late brother's best friend. He takes it upon himself to protect her like a brother, he doesn't want her to fall into the trap of the school playboy.  She hates him at first, but then she finds out that Carson is not as bad as she thought.  Can Annabelle survive all these trials? How much longer will Carson be able to keep her in check before her teenager exorbitance consumes her?

Chapter 1

I watch snowfall through my window from where I lay on my bed, listening to my Mom talk.

She thinks I'm faking a fever because I don't want to go to church on Christmas Eve.

She raises the thermometer and squints at it. Ben, who has been standing and smiling all this while, chuckles. I turn to give him a cold glare. He finds it funny and laughs. Older brothers can be annoying and assholes.

Ben. Handsome as guys can come. Pretty girls are always flocking around him. This I know because he told me, well when we weren't fighting.

We live in different states because our parents are separated, but we spend the holidays together. Shuffling between the two states.

"We will do well to pray to baby Jesus to forgive your sins," Ben says with a smile.

"You should pray for yourself, pig!" I glare at him.

"Language, Annabelle " Mom softly scolds me. "Jesus wouldn't do that now, would he?"

*sighs*

Here we go again. Another whole sermon.

"We are running late, I don't want to be late to church on Christmas Eve. When I'm back, we will have a long talk about your foul language."

With that, she exits my room.

Ben bends down and ruffles my hair. I fight him off and claw at him.

He laughs and says "See you later, pumpkin".

He leaves and I don't say anything. I always have something mean to say to him, but not this time. If I had known that that was the last time I would see my brother, I would have run after him and given him a tight hug.

I would have told him I love him even if we lived a thousand miles away with separate parents and only got to see him doing holidays.

I would have told Mom I loved her even with all her fanatic behaviors. With her weird obsession with Christianity. She always talked about heaven and it being perfect. I hope she is there, I hope they both are. Despite everything, she is the best mother anyone can ever hope for.

I am already drifting to sleep when I hear a knock. God knows I am not going to get it but it is persistent. It then turns into banging and that is when I know the person isn't going to go away.

I grumpily stand up and wear my flip-flops. And I walk to the door.

When I open it, I see the least expected person - a police officer.

"Good afternoon, officer. How can I help you?" I asked. My eyes are heavy with sleep.

"Sorry to bother you, but is this Mrs. Hopkins ' resident?" He asks.

"Yes, it is," I answer. I don't like the sound of this conversation.

"You must be Annabelle Hopkins ," he asks again.

"I am. Is something wrong, officer?" I ask. Panic was in my voice. I fear the worst has happened.

"I'm sorry Annabelle, your mother, and brother, I presume, have been in an accident. I'm afraid they are both dead".

The words roll out of his mouth as if they were nothing. As if he hasn't just crashed my world. That my Mom and only brother no longer existed.

What happens next is my fainting. I felt life and consciousness draining out of me and I felt the policeman's hands around me stopping me from falling to the ground.

***********

I wake up to a beeping sound and my father beside me. My handsome father. Ben got his looks from him. He looks tired and like he hasn't slept in days.

As soon as I open my eyes, he rushes to my side and touches my forehead.

"Dad?" I Mom ble as tears fall down my face.

"My baby, Anne. You are alright, do you hear me? Everything is going to be fine". He whispers and strokes my hair.

"I need a doctor here!" He shouts and continues to soothe me. From the pain? I don't know what.

My father and I have kind of drifted apart. Maybe because we lived in different parts of the country, or the fact that he cheated on my mother with his young secretary and he still had the nerve to ask for a divorce.

Mom being the good Christian she was refused, she chose to forgive him and pray adultery out of him.

He chose to leave the day. He left with Ben.

The day he left was the first day I saw my mother cry. She sat on a sofa in the backyard and cried. Her body shaking as sobs left her mouth and she wipe her red eyes with a handkerchief.

Later that evening, her prayer group women came. They crowded around her and gave her words of advice, and chipped in Bible verses here and there. And told her to hold tight to God's no-divorce policy. So when dad sent her the divorce papers, she didn't sign them. It caused great tension between them, even till her death.

Two years after their separation, dad hit the jackpot in his importation business and became very rich. He sent us more money but Mom spent as little as she could. Saving up the rest. Because of her miser habit, I wore the cheapest of clothes and the crappiest gadgets. Anytime I went over to dad's, he bought me loads of expensive things. When I came back, Mom took them and gave them to charity...

I have gotten better bit by bit and I am released two days later. For reasons best known to him, dad wouldn't go back to the house. He insists we stay in a hotel. I agree and we did. I tell him I need clothes and that I want to go back home to get my clothes.

He refuses and instead takes me to a boutique and buys me new things. Expensive new things.

I know, I'm sad that Mom and Ben just died, but when it dawned on me that I would have to go and live with him.

*****

I'm dressed in black, dad is dressed in black. I look around, Mom 's sister Aunt Michelle is here, her friends, some of Ben's friends that I recognize, and our pastor, they are all around.

We are sitting around two coffins in the cemetery and the Pastor gives a long speech.

"Sister Moreen was a good woman and I know heaven is rejoicing."

Some people murmur and nod in agreement.

"When the women in the Bible went to check Jesus' body, a man told them that he was no longer in the tomb". He pauses and looks at all of us.

"And now I tell you, brothers and sisters, sister Moreen and her son might not be with us now, but they are in heaven, smiling down at us with the saints".

People clap in agreement and nod. I turn to look at dad, with his dark shades. And he looks back at me and smiles sweetly.

Dad isn't a Christian. On paper he is, and his name is in fact James, but he never went to church only on Christmas day.

He believes in Jesus, so he claims, but he says he doesn't believe in Christianity.

That was one of the many things that pulled him and Mom apart, I guess.

After the burial, dad takes me to the house. It is quiet and calm. He steps in and looked around. He then sits down at the dining table. I didn't know what to do or where to stay so I sit on the stairs. He beckons to me and I stand up.

"Come sit here," he says and taps on the dining chair closest to him.

I sit and he smiles at me. Behind the smile, I can see the tears he was fighting back. I am not so strong, I let mine flow.

"I'm sorry for what happened to your Mom and Ben." He says.

"It wasn't your fault. It was nobody's. Some things just... happen. I shake my head and wipe my tears.

He nods in agreement. Some things like the death of his ex-wife and son.

Silence follows. I guess none of us know what else to say.

"You are coming to live with me. I mean, if that's okay with you. " He looks at me.

I don't have a choice. Can a seventeen-year-old live by herself? He knows I don't have a choice, but here he is asking.

"I don't have a choice. You are the only one who would take me in. " I reply to him.

" Your aunt Michelle said you should come to stay with her. That's if you want to. I want you to come live with me but if you don't want to, you can go to Michelle. "

Aunt Michelle. She isn't like Mom , she is strict and won't hesitate to smack you no matter your age. That aside she has three sets of twins so, I'd rather stay at an orphanage.

"I'll go with you. " I say to my dad. He smiles and nods. I could see the excitement on his face as he pulls me in for a hug.

After so long, he pulls away.

"What's going to happen to the house?" I ask.

"It's all yours. What do you want to do with it?" He asks me.

" You could sell it and keep the money for yourself. Not that you would need it."

I know what he is saying. He has a lot of money. I won't be needing my Mom 's crappy house for anything.

"So what do you want to do? Are you going to keep it?"

I was still thinking. Mom loved this house. It held so many memories. Not all of them are nice but that's all I will have of her.

"Annabelle?" My father calls me back to reality.

I snap back and looked at him.

"What have you decided?"

I have.

"Can I give it to Aunt Michelle?" I ask.

"Aunt Michelle?" He asks, Somewhat surprised.

Aunty Michelle might be all tough and strict. But that woman suffers a lot. She lost her husband right after the birth of her last twins. She works really hard at the end of the day for very little. That's why she is so mean. This house would go a long way. I'm sure that would be what Mom wants.

"Aunt Michelle could really use the house and there would be enough rooms for the three twins."

Dad nods. He must be thinking of how much of a genius I am. I couldn't have done it so perfectly.

He smiles and smoothens my hair.

*********

I look around my room. The pink wallpapers and the white bedding.

My clothes are neatly packed and my important stuff is in my backpack.

I took one last look at it and closed the door.

I walk into Mom 's room. Arranged as usual. I looked around. I pick up her Bible and bring it close to my nose. It smells just like her. The thought of this makes my eyes wet.

I put it in my bag. I sit on her bed and lie down. It was strange that she wasn't going to burst through the door, telling me to take off my shoes. Strangely, she isn't going to ever do that.

I descend the stairs. Aunt Michelle and dad are sitting and talking in whispers.

Aunt Michelle looks like her old self. Fearless and bold, but when she turns to me, I can't recognize her. My Aunt has been crying. Her eyes are red and puffy. She quickly cleans her eyes as soon as she sees me descending.

"Baby, are you set?" She asks, smiling.

I nod and look between her and dad. I was kind of nudging him with my eyes.

She looks at me confused.

"What is it?" She asks.

Dad clears his throat.

"Annabelle wants you to have the house. She thinks you should have it instead of giving it out for rent." Dad explains.

She covers her face crying. Her face turns red and she pulls me into a tight hug, almost choking me out.

"Oh my God, Annabelle." She sobs, "You are such an angel, aren't you?"

She releases me and cups my face. She wipes my face and that was when I realized that tears were pouring from my eyes.

"Your Mom would be proud of you. I and your cousins appreciate your kind gesture. It's going to relieve so much from my shoulders."

She turns and pulls dad into a new hug.

"I'm going to miss you guys. But no worries, I and the clan will come visiting."

I giggle, imagining my cousins who were hard to control, turning dad's fancy house upside down."

Surely going to miss Mom 's house.

Chapter 2

I stand looking around the luxurious house that is now my home.

Everything seems to be made from glass or something expensive. I have been here so many times but each time I come back, there is alwayd something new that just pulls out all the air from my lungs, and makes me stare in marvel.

I am still lost in my thoughts when I feel a hand on my shoulder.

"Come on, you will have enough time to look around. Let me show you your room." Dad says.

He climbs the stairs and I follow suit.

He opens the door and the view that meets me is just spectacular.

If this haven is my room, I won't ever leave it.

Everything is pink and completely different from where I slept when I spent a few days with him, and Ben.

On the dressing table is a pink laptop. All of these would have excited me on a different day, but not today. Now with all the grief I came with in my heart.

"Wow," I say flatly.

" Don't you

Heroes

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