All’s Fair in Love and War; Chapter Two: Bullet the Blue Sky

Sorry it took me so long to update! I am having trouble writing the introduction chapters of the story, but the next chapters will be much easier for me to write! Thank you for the support of some of you, it really means a lot since I am just getting started! Hope you enjoy, and I promise it is going to get more interesting! 

-Laur

Song: Lifeline, Papa Roach

“I’ve been looking for a lifeline, for what seems like a lifetime, I’m drowning in the pain, breaking down again, looking for a lifeline.”

ELLISON

Sauntering back into the life that I abandoned four years ago feels so deviant. It feels like starting a book then stopping when you have read halfway through, then weeks later, picking it back up and starting from where you left off. You can’t really remember what you read before so you backpedal a little, but you don’t recommence from the beginning. As you read though, little fragments of the story come back with nostalgia.

My forehead rests on the cool glass window of my dad’s black Escalade and I watch the city pass by. The lights reflect off of the nearby ocean and the streetlamps off of the bridge illuminate our path to the house.

My dad clears his throat, “You’re quiet.” He grumbles.

“Long day of travel I guess.” I mutter.

“Hm, speaking of, how was the flight?”

How was the flight? Well to start everything off, I got searched and groped by a masochistic security guard, I tripped and fell in front of the whole population of LAX, I ran into an egotistical douche-bag of an actor, not to mention the fact that I got hit on by said actor, and I got stuck in between tweedle-grumpy and tweedle-busy on the flight. But oh yes, the 6 hour flight was awesome.

I save the rap for my thoughts and give him the synopsis, “It was fine. The food was good,” I add. The food was, in actuality, quite disgusting.

The rest of the drive was awkwardly silent, but thankfully it was only a mere ten minutes.  

When we pull into the drive way, my chest tightens with anxiousness as I remember bits and pieces of my childhood, like forgotten details in a book. The house is dark except for two floodlights shining in front of the garage.

Dad sighs, “Welp, here we are.”

I sit and stare at the house for a few minutes as the car stops. Every detail brings back a different memory involving that aspect. It’s odd to think how I used to feel so at home here, but now it feels like an outsider’s home that I am visiting for the first time whilst experiencing a ghastly case of déjà vu.

“You coming or what?” my dad chimes in with a trivial laugh.

I smile and nod and drag myself out of the SUV. 

I trail behind my dad as I lug my bags in my arms while he fishes the keys out of his pocket. My luggage falls with a thud onto the porch as my arms give out, and I take this as an opportunity to look around at my old house up close. Nothing has changed much other than fewer flowers in the gardens and the lights upstairs remain off. They used to always be on, but ever since my brother and I- well I- stopped coming; I guess no one goes up there anymore.

“The house looks good.” I say softly.

“Uh, I meant to cut the grass.” He puts his palm on his forehead and sighs with disappointment in himself.

“The grass looks fine, dad” I put my hand on his shoulder, “… really.” I insist.

He smiles at me slightly and then pushes the front door open, “I know it’s a little big for just me now, but I can’t seem to move out. You think you remember how to get around?”

“I think I can manage.” I say with a smirk.

My dad’s German Sheppard, Bear, comes running around the corner, his claws skidding against the hard wood floors as the puppy hurriedly runs to see who I am. I razzle the puppies ears and pat him on the head.

Dad helps me carry my things to my room and then he leaves me to get settled in.

“Goodnight Ellison,” he smiles lightly, “It’s good to have you back.” Then he shuts my door softly.

I unpack my clothes and shove them into my old closet. I open the French doors and let out a diminutive laugh. I run my hand over the layer of dust covering the *NSync, Dirty Dancing, and old Rock’n’Roll posters plastered on the inside of the door. This was one detail that I had completely forgotten about.

On my walls preceding the closet are pictures from the times that I lived here during past summers. Every summer, my brother and I used to come here for three months during our summer vacation and every time I would come, I would make a promise to myself to take a picture everyday and tape it to the wall, that way I didn’t miss a thing. We would go to the nearest convenient store and buy every disposable camera they had in stock just to capture each moment. Although some things I wish I would have missed.  

One picture in particular catches my attention. It’s a picture of my friend Tessa and me about five years ago; one year before I stopped visiting. Tessa and I have talked since I left, but not enough for me to keep track of her number. I set the picture aside to remind me to ask my dad about her and her family in the morning. 

Other than the layer of dust that lays over all of my belongings, my room is virtually identical to the way it was when I left it. My dad had the courtesy to ask the cleaning lady to put new sheets on my bed, but I guess she didn’t dust.

I look at the clock, 1:09am. Though the time difference from here and Los Angeles is only two more hours and it is only 11:09pm at home, the exhaustion is tugging at my eyelids and begging me to give in. So instead of letting my obduracy take over, I surrender and fall onto the fluffy white comforter and slowly feel my eyes drift to a close.

-

My eyes shoot open to a stream of sunlight passing through my window that is being reflected off of the water just outside my bedroom. I groan in disappointment when I see that it is only 7am; 5am LA time. I slam my face back into the pillow. I almost forgot I was here. Here in Panama, at my dad’s house, drowning in my thoughts and reaching for a lifeline that isn’t presently in attendance.

I was dreaming I was home in my own little apartment in California. But instead I woke in this teenager’s bedroom. I teenager that I had thought I left in the past..

I roll over and look up through the skylight on my ceiling and see that the sky is already blue and cloud free; perfect weather for a not-so-perfect start.

The smell of bacon and pancakes is the only thing that motivates me to leave this bed at this God awful hour of the morning. I trudge down the stairs and sit at the bar where my dad cooks on the other side of the kitchen.

“Morning.. I didn’t think you’d be up for another hour or more, I would have started cooking sooner.” He rambles.

“Dad,” I say sternly, the smile lightly, “stop apologizing… it’s fine! Really!”

“I know, I’m just,-” he sighs and shakes his head, “how’d you sleep?”

I stretch my arms up, “pretty good now that I think about it.”

“Get everything settled in?”

“For the most part.” Just not me. I’m definitely not settled in.

He finishes cooking and then sets a plate in front of me and we eat in silence, until I break it.

“So,” I start, “I think I am going to go into the town today… to um, get acquainted with everything again.”

“That’s fine. I have some work I need to do today anyways, just be careful, please.” He looks at me with pleading eyes. I know under the circumstances, he is going to be protective, but I am twenty years old now and he is going to need to learn to let my leash loose a little, if not completely, because I know he won’t let me run free.

“I will dad. I promise.” I say then walk to my bedroom to shower and get ready.

I leave the house shortly after and hop into the Jeep my dad is letting me borrow while I’m here and put it in reverse, until my dad knocks his hand on the window.

I roll it down, “yeah dad?”

“I just got off the phone with your uncle, he wanted you to stop by the surf shop to say hello. It would really mean a lot to him, you know?”

My uncle owns a rental shop on the beach here in Panama. He has owned it for as long as I can remember. It is mainly for the tourists and such that want to rent boats, jet skis, surfboards, anything really. In previous years, that would be the spot to get booze and jet skis, and I know that will be a place chock-full of horrid memories.  

I nod through my smile, “Of course dad.”

“Thanks Ellis.” He says with a smile then starts to walk away.

“Hey dad?”

“Yeah El?”

“Love you,” I say.

“Love you too, sweetie.” He squints at me for a moment, then finally breaks the eye contact and swiftly walks away.

I pull up to the surf shop and walk through the door, hearing the bell ding as the door swings open.

“Ellie!! I hear him say excitedly as he walks out from behind the counter.

“Hey Uncle Leo!” I say, and then he wraps me in a hug.

“I thought I’d never see you around here again! It’s so good to see you.”

“It’s good to see you too! I didn’t think I would be either, but um-“

“Yeah, Jeff told me about him getting deployed. Such a shame. But at least he won’t be in combat.” He shrugs with a smirk. Leo has always been one to ramble on without end. Maybe he is where I learned it from.

“Yeah, that’s a definite plus!” I say.

“Leo!” a worker shouts as he pokes his head through the door that leads to the garages that hold the rental boats and jet skis.

“Yeah Tom?” he replies.

“Jets skis don’t have any gas!”

Leo turns back to me and runs his palm over his face, “there is always something to do around here!” he sighs, “we open in,” he checks his watch, “Oh God, thirty minutes. I don’t have time for this shit.”

“Well, I can do it. My dad is letting me borrow his jeep so I think that I can pull the trailers.”

“You would do that? Oh gosh, El, you are a lifesaver!” he says with his hands on my shoulders.

I laugh and follow him to hook up the trailer. He gives me the company credit card and I start up the jeep.

He leans through the window, “please be careful on those roads Ellison.”

I nod my head and then depart for town.

The town is the same. Same shops, same bikes on the bike racks, same vendors selling flowers on the street. This place never seemed to change as a kid, and I thought maybe that was because I was here all the time, but now I see that this isn’t a town that does much changing at all. Maybe all this place needs is some change.

I pull in front of the pump and hop out of the Jeep and onto the back of the trailer so I can reach the gas tanks to the jet skis.

I sit on one of them as I wait for the tank to fill and glance around. I don’t recognize anyone I know, but it has been four years, and one thing that does change about this town is the people in it. I start humming along with the radio playing from a nearby stopped truck until something else grabs my attention.

He clears his throat, “Ellison?” a raspy voice says from behind me, and I can hear the chuckle in his voice.

I turn around quickly and see Josh standing there in swim trunks and a blue striped tank top. He hides behind the same sunglasses and hat that he did at the airport.

I roll my eyes, “Ugh, you again?

JOSH

I pull up to the gas station to fill up the rental car and suddenly I see her familiar brown waves falling sinuously down her back as she is situated on the back of a car trailer. I convinced myself that the minute I left the airport I would never see her again, yet there she is, coincidentally at the same gas station, one of many in this town, that I am at. I walk over to her and clear my throat and cautiously say her name. “Ellison?”

She flips her head around and her hair flings over her shoulder, the smell of vanilla and orange scented sunscreen overwhelms my senses. She looks me up and down then rolls her eyes, “You again?” she scoffs.

My mouth drops. Never have I ever gotten the cold shoulder this bad before, especially not since my recently found fame.

“Can I help you?” she asks.

“Uh-“ I am lost for words. Not only do I rarely get the cold shoulder, but I also am rarely found speechless in front of a girl, yet this is the second time she has had this effect on me in the past 48 hours.

“Listen,” she clears her throat, “I’m not going to be part of your little fame game here, and I won’t treat you differently because of your money or social status, and I am most certainly not going to be one more notch in your belt, alright? So if this is what you’re aiming for, I suggest you take your little cocky ass and walk away right now.”

I cock my eyebrow and clear my throat, “I don’t think I am the cocky one in this situation, I was simply coming over to say hi to you because I thought it was funny that we ended up in the same place once again, not saying ‘turn around so I can fuck you senseless.’ Good lord, is no one allowed to be your friend or what?” I ask.

This time her mouth drops, “I uh- I’m”

“Now, I’m sorry if it came as a surprise that anyone of the opposite sex was talking to you with that bad attitude, but I found you interesting, and if you want me to just leave you alone I will.” I laugh.

“Um,” she looks around nervously, then back at me.

“Seriously Ellis, I am in no position to be looking for some summer fling, and I am definitely not looking for a one night stand whatsoever, but god, I was just looking for a nice, friendly conversation and by the looks of it, you need one too because evidently you don’t have much experience with those. But whatever. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll see you around?” I retort sarcastically and slam the door and drive away from the scene.

I have never in my life met someone with a stick shoved that far up their ass but yet still finding myself oddly attracted to her. She’s fascinating, and I know she’s got a story. No one is like that by choice, and a fire has been lit within me that won’t go out until I figure out why.  

I drive to a surf shop on the beach where I told Andre I would meet him and the scorching pavement burns my feet as I sprint to the grass. Andre told me to rent some surf boards for the day and since I don’t officially start working until next week, we might as well find something to do in the meantime.

As I walk in through the door to the shop, and I see a tall man standing behind the counter with the name Leo Sinclair embroidered into his shirt then underneath, the title Manager/Owner.

“Morning son,” he chimes, “Hey! Wait, you’re that actor kid? We heard talk about how you were going to be in town. Welcome to Panama! How can I help you?” he asks, which is followed by a thud and a voice muttering the words “fuck” and “shit” repeatedly, to which Leo turns around and yells, “Lauguage!!! I’ve got a customer!”

The voice, belonging to a girl I recently deciphered, then replies, “sorry!” which is then followed by a line of other violent sounding crashes and a few laughs.

I pinch the bridge of my nose and laugh silently.

“Sorry about that, my niece is a chutz,” he laughs, “but what can I get for you son?”  

“Two surfboards and a couple waters please.” I reply, handing him my card.

“Will do.” He calls the order for the surfboards through the double doors and then turns back to me. “So how do you like it so far?”

I chuckle then sigh, “Well I can’t say it hasn’t been anything but eventful. I’ve definitely been kept on my toes!”

“That’s surprising!” he laughs and hands me my waters, “Well good luck on that movie!”

Just as he is about to hand me my card back, the double doors that lead to the garages, I assume, swing open and once again, my senses are filled with vanilla and orange scented sunscreen, a smell that I have became very keen of.

“Hey Uncle Leo I,-” her eyes grow big as they connect with mine and she quickly spins on her heels and pushes her way back through the doors.

“Starstruck maybe? Never know with her.” He shrugs, “Just meet me around back and I will get those boards for you.” Definitely not starstruck, that’s for sure.

I nod and make my way around the building. He hands me one surfboard and then informs me that he will go get someone to help me carry the other down to the water. As I wait for him to come back, I walk a few feet away to call Andre and check for fans. Clear on the fans, but no pickup from Andre.

After I hang up the phone, I hear a ping from a text message,

Andre: gonna be a little late, got held up at the hotel, see you soon.

I puff out my cheeks and type up a reply, but before I know it, I crash right into someone holding a surfboard in front of them, “Fuck!” I yell, and my hand clings to the slide of my face at the site of the impact.

“Oh, shit. I am so sorry!” I hear Ellison’s soft voice ringing in my head as if she is yelling into a megaphone, “Are you okay? Shit! Umm…” she mumbles and looks around frantically.    

“Who are you?” I ask, “Who am I?”

“Aw fuck, I freaking broke him, dear God.” She mutters. “How many fingers am I holding up?” she holds up two fingers, her brown waves hanging loose, outlining her face.

“Forty-two?” I question, jokingly.

“oh gosh, now I’m definitely going to jail. I broke a freaking actor oh my god.” She starts to stand up and search around for someone while she blocks the sun with her hand as a visor.

“Ellis.” I say, but she doesn’t hear me. I sit up, “Ellison!!” I yell.

“Shut up! I am trying to figure out-” she looks at me and squints, “You little fucking shit!!” she punches my arm, “that’s not even close to being funny.”

“God, you are a freaking spaz.” I stand up and fold over grabbing my gut to contain my laughter, “You were seriously worried!” I laugh again.

“I think anyone would be worried if they gave someone with as much net worth as you a brain injury!” she says defensively.

“I’m fine! But if you do that again, we’re going to have problems.”

She runs her thumb over my cheek, “You’re gonna bruise, we need to get ice on that ASAP.” She nods her head towards the building and I follow.

Her jean shorts are a little on the short side and her button down shirt with the buttons undone with her bikini underneath make it a lot easier to focus on something else other than the pain in my head, that is until she speaks up.

“You know, I’m starting to think you are stalking me,” she says.

“Whoa, now who is the cocky one? I was beginning to think you were avoiding me.”

“You’re good at stating the obvious.” She replies bitterly.

“Why were you avoiding me? What is it about me that you hate so much?” I ask as she takes me into the office of the shop to get ice. “Do you own this shop?”

“I don’t hate you… now, would you stop with all these questions?!” she places ice in a bag and wraps it in a towel, “It’s my uncle’s shop, if you must know.”

Her face is inches from mine as she inspects my cheek, her eyes such a clear shade of blue that I find myself staring into them for longer than I had intended to.

“Let me know if you find treasure,” she counters with amusement. 

“Where’d you get this scar from?” I ask as I run my thumb over her left eyebrow.

She snaps her hands back and backs away from me quickly, dropping the ice on the floor. Her index and middle finger slide over the scar, her mind distancing far away from myself and reality, then her eyes look back to me, “Why do you ask so many questions?” she asks spitefully, but then her face softens.

“Just curious.”

“I’m sure you’ve heard what curiosity did to the cat?”

“Yeah, yeah. It killed it. Blah blah.”

“Right and I wouldn’t want to have to put you on my list.” She says as she walks back closer to me while picking up the ice off of the floor. I bug my eyes out and hold my arm stiff out, “dude, I’m kidding.” she laughs a real laugh; not that shallow, empty chuckle.

“I was about to have to rethink my decision.” I laugh and pull my arms down back into my lap.

“What decision?” she furrows her eye brows and places the ice on my face.

I wince, “sorry.” She mumbles.

I shake my head, “It’s okay.. And my decision to let you be this close to me.” I laugh and so does she.

“I may be a little hostile sometimes, but I am not a murderer, Josh.” She pulls the ice off and then pushes herself onto the counter, “I’m sorry about earlier,” she says as she stares at the ground and swings her bare feet back and forth.

“It’s okay.” I mutter, standing up and walking closer to her.

“No it’s not. I get that way sometimes, I have a dis- no I just am sorry.” She stutters.

“You have a what?”

“No more questions for you. Here, lets just like start over or something.”

“Hi,” I hold my hand out, “I’m Josh.”

“Hi Josh. Ellison,” she takes my hand and shakes it lightly, “But you can call me Ellis.” She smiles widely.

“Nice to meet you,” I hold my hand out again to offer my help for her to get down, but she just raises an eyebrow at me.

She hops off of the counter without my help and dusts off the back of her shorts, “So, my uncle told me to help you with those boards, where are we taking them?”

-

She swings the surfboard over her head and balances it as she walks, “I have a condition.”

“A what?” I laugh.

“A condition.” She repeats.

“A condition for what?”

“This,” she takes one hand off of the surfboard and gestures between us. “Actually I have three.”

“Okay… continue…”

“We can be friends as long as there is no kissing, no holding hands, and no falling in love with me. Got it?”

“And I’m the cocky one?! Besides, I am pretty sure that last condition won’t be hard to persevere. Get over yourself, seriously.” I laugh.

“Using lines from your movies isn’t going to impress me.” She says flatly.

“Ah, so you’ve seen my work?” I look at her and with a smirk sweeping across my lips.

“Oh, get over yourself, seriously.” She says in a voice imitating mine.

Using lines from my movies isn’t going to impress me, you know.” I mock her back.

She raises her eyebrows and her mouth turns slightly into a grin then shoves the surfboard into the sand, “You’re good Hutcherson. You’re really good.” she shakes her head slightly.

She strides towards me and runs her fingers over my cheek, “The swelling should go down… Again, I’m really sorry.” she breathes a soft laugh. 

"Stop aplogizing! It’s fine, Ellis. I’ll be fine." I insist,  "I’ve had much worse," I smile. 

She smiles lightly and sighs, “Well have fun out there, but watch out for SharkToothBay down that way,” she points to the north beach, “no one ever makes it out of there alive.”

“You’re kidding right?”

“Totally, but still, stay out of there, got it? I don’t need you almost dying twice on me in one day.”

“Got it, and I did not almost die earlier.. you just overreacted.”

“Oh whatever, it was close enough… well I’ll see you around.” She waves goodbye and I watch her sway back to the surf shop.

I am madly convinced that Ellison Sinclair, this complex, beautiful individual is a tortured soul trapped inside of a 20 year old women’s body, and I am intensely determined to discover every detail she buries inside of her. This battle may be just beginning, and I know I am only just standing on no man’s land, but I am armed and ready to venture into foreign territories, fully prepared for what ever weapon of mass destruction she throws my way. 

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