I sang along with the Adam Lambert song blasting from the iHome speakers in my kitchen as I washed the dirty dishes. My parents had gone to the airport to pick up my older sister and made me stay home because they wanted everything clean for her. I’d told them that she lived here for eighteen years; she’d seen the house dirty, but they wouldn’t budge, so I was stuck at home. Adam’s album always made me happy and I was glad for the distraction.
I pushed the depressing thoughts from my mind and continued singing a little louder, until the doorbell broke my thoughts. Drying my hands, I headed to the front door. We weren’t expecting any visitors that I knew of, but I was hoping that my Mayday Parade CDs from Amazon would be delivered today.
Glancing through the frosted window, I froze at the familiar face that stared back at me. Unlocking the door, I swung it open, smiling happily at the man standing on my porch.
“Hey Emmalee,” Kris Allen grinned back at me, stepping forward to squeeze me in a hug and ruffle my hair. I smacked his hand away, laughing before hugging him again. “I hope you didn’t mind that I stopped by.”
“When do I ever mind seeing you?” I teased, tugging him into the house. Kris’s parents and my parents had been friends for years and they actually lived a few streets over from us. My sister and Kris had dated in high school, but that was a fact I often tried to forget.
“Kris, I can’t get the trunk up.” A deeper irritated voice carried from around the corner and I stopped short at the sound. Kris laughed, turning to toss a set of keys at Adam Lambert, who was standing on the steps of my porch. I just stared for a moment. Adam Lambert was standing on my porch and I couldn’t even form a full sentence. “Hi,”
I blinked for a moment, before forcing a sound out of my mouth.
“Um, hi,” I glanced at Kris. “Manners?”
“Adam, this is Emmalee, one of my old neighbors. Em, this is Adam, who can’t open a car trunk.” He teased. “Don’t worry about it.”
“C’mon on in. I’m sure that you’re thirsty.” I offered, opening the door a little wider so they could come in. Kris and Adam followed me and I blushed bright red as Adam recognized his own album playing loud in the kitchen. I turned it down a little, tilting my head towards the kitchen table. “You can sit. We have sweet tea, coffee, water,” I started.
“Sweet tea,” Kris answered, grinning. “You make the best- but don’t tell my mama I said that.”
Adam snickered and Kris rolled his eyes. “I guess I’ll have sweet tea too. Kris is a pretty good judge of it.”
“Sure.” I smiled at the both of them, before walking over to the cabinet, pulling out two glasses. “How’s everything been, Kris?”
“Really good,” He replied, sounding happy, but his voice became serious. “Mom told me you had some trouble. The real question is how are you?”
“Better,” I admitted truthfully, forcing myself not to cross my arms when Kris’s eyes scanned the scars on my wrists covered by several bracelets, or tell the complete truth. “I’m a lot better.”
“That’s really good.” He grinned, his smile still making my heart flutter. “Adam and I will be in town for a while. You should hang with us a few days.”
“If that’s okay with Adam,” I hesitated, but Adam nodded.
“Sure. It’ll be fun.” He agreed.
“Ella is on her way home, by the way.” I added, glancing at Kris.
He winced, remembering the force of nature that my sister is. “Adam, Ella is Emmalee’s sister. She’s a bit much to handle.”
“She’s a force to be reckoned with, Adam, and Kris, you have no say, you dated her.” I mentioned rolling my eyes. Adam chuckled at Kris’s face.
I could hear the clicking of the locks of the garage door from the kitchen.
“Kris?!” I heard Ella’s voice from down the hallway and I groaned. Kris squeezed my shoulder before turning to face the hallway. “Kris, I saw your car in the driveway.”
I rolled my eyes again, ignoring Adam’s questioning look. Ella ran my house, even though she’d graduated two years ago. We were eight years apart and I felt like my parents had been comparing us since I started walking six weeks after she did. I’d gotten B’s when Ella got A’s. I didn’t have a core group of friends to hang out with, but she did. I didn’t want to participate in school events, and Ella was Homecoming and Winterfest Queen. Ella was president of her senior class, and I was secretary of the honors society. Nothing I did was enough for them. Ella graduated top of her class and was one of the first accepted to nursing school. I knew something was wrong with that, but when I visited her, I saw the ID of the nursing coordinator hanging on her bedpost.
That’s when I figured out her motive, but of course, my parents shot me down. Ella had been sleeping with him, for months before her application was due she told me later, laughing. She had to insure her place.
“Emmalee,” Her distain was obvious, and she snagged Kris into a hug tightly. “Hey Kris, how are you? How long are you staying? Who is this?”
“Adam.” I stated, my tone obviously annoyed. “Why are you here?”
“I live here, Emmalee,” Her tone of voice sharpened and I could see the shock on Adam’s face.
“No you live in Charleston. You should stay there.” I reminded her with a sigh.
“Have you talked to Nathan lately, sis?”
“Fuck you.” I spat, the words venomous as I ignored the surprised looks that Adam and Kris gave me. “You don’t know shit, Ella.”
“Obviously, I know enough. Do Mama and Dad know the truth about him?”
“There’s nothing for them to know.” I corrected, trying and failing to keep my voice calm, before just letting it go. “Fuck, just say what you want to say, Ella. I don’t give a fuck anymore.”
She frowned at my sudden change in tone, and I just rolled my eyes, leaving the kitchen and heading to the office, where my parents kept my piano. It was my hiding place; it always had been. I hadn’t forgotten that I’d left Adam and Kris in the kitchen. I just didn’t want to break down in front of them. Forcing myself to take a breath, I let my fingers fall onto the keys, remembering the tune that I had started picking out this morning before everyone had woken up. How Ella knew everything despite the fact she lived hundreds of miles away, I didn’t know.
“That’s my song.”
Adam’s voice startled my fingers right off the keys, and I turned to look at him. Up close, he was just as gorgeous as his album covers showed and I couldn’t stop the automatic pick up of speed in my heartbeat as I heard him speak in the voice I’d only heard sing.
“I have a question,” Adam started, sinking onto the piano bench with me, despite the lack of personal space between us. “Feel absolutely free to tell me to fuck off, Emmalee. Was Nathan your Dom?”
I had yet to suppress the absolute bolt of fear that shot through me at the sound of his name, but more so was the surprise that Adam had asked. That couldn’t have been the first thing he thought. It was never the first thing anyone thought.
“You know about-“ I broke off, the words sticking in my throat. What if he tells Kris? He’d never look at me the same way again. ”How did you even guess that?”
“I was in for a little while too,” Adam promised. “I won’t say anything to anyone, I promise you that. I just wanted to ask away from everybody else, because you reacted badly. You and Nathan? You didn’t see eye to eye?”
I sighed at the naïve phrase he used, almost rolling my eyes. ‘Eye to eye’ didn’t even close to cover the issues that I had with Nathan. The crimes he had committed.
“I don’t want this.” I told Nathan, shying away from the cuffs. “I know you like the whip, but I don’t. It leaves marks I don’t want to- and can’t- explain at school next week. Let’s not do this today.”
I never saw his hand, just felt the jarring impact and the burst of pain in the side of my mouth, from my cheek being knocked into my teeth. The pain radiated through my mouth, and I realized I’d bitten my tongue when he hit me.
“This isn’t about what you fucking want, Emmalee. You put me in charge, and that means you don’t have a say anymore.” His voice was cold and threatening and the grip he had on my arm was too tight. “Argue with me again, those pictures will get out.”
My blood ran ice cold and I snapped my mouth shut, my arms going limp in his grip.
“I didn’t mean to bring up any bad memories.” Adam touched my arm, startling me out of my thoughts and I sighed softly. Ella’s voice carried into the room and I couldn’t stop my eye roll. “She didn’t help much, did she?”
“No,” I murmured. “She didn’t help at all, always asking why I was sitting funny, why I was walking weird.”
That statement made Adam frown. “Did he leave permanent marks Emmalee?”
I sucked in a surprised breath at the question, and Adam cursed a blue streak. I raised an eyebrow and he flushed.
“Sorry, it just-“ He stopped, taking a calming breath before continuing. “I hate that Doms can get away with this shit still.”
I just shrugged, because if I’d opened my mouth, I would cry.
“Oh Emmalee.” Adam rested a sparkling hand on my knee, his ring glistening in the light. “You never told anyone, did you?”
“Just my best friend Christian.” I replied softly.
“You love him.” He stated quietly.
“He’s taken, so it doesn’t matter.” I responded with a shrug, and I heard Ella calling my name. Rolling my eyes, I stood, shifting Adam’s hand off my knee. “Sorry,”
I didn’t give Adam a chance to answer before heading back into the kitchen. My parents looked confused as I walked in and Kris looked downright worried. I frowned, glancing at Ella.
“Is something wrong?” I questioned slowly.
“Is what Ella is saying true? Did you go to sex clubs with that boy?” My mother asked, the words ‘sex club’ seeming to twist her mouth like poison. I could feel my heart drop into my stomach.
“I’m not talking about this to you.” I didn’t say anything else, grabbing my keys from the hook by the garage door. I’d never been so grateful that my house had a circle drive. My mom called after me and I hated leaving Adam and Kris there, but I couldn’t handle this discussion. Not now. I had promised Chris that I would be at the diner before the night was over, so I could just go earlier.
Starting the car, I sighed in relief as my mixed CD starting playing. Fall Out Boy was blasting out of my speakers, and I felt like I was breathing easier already. I pulled out my driveway, starting towards the diner, my windows down and my music as loud as it could go. Patrick’s voice was slowly, but surely calming my thoughts.
I pulled into the parking lot empty and hopped out of my car, feeling marginally better. The diner hadn't opened yet- they only served lunch and dinner during the week. I could see Chad and Jared taunting each from the door and I smiled as I walked in and the little bell rang. Chad was Sophia’s boyfriend and Jared was Chad’s best friend. Jared always made me smile.
"Emmalee!" All six foot four of Jared was hugging me tightly before I could say a word. He pulled back to look at my face, frowning. "What happened?"
"Ella," I said with a sigh and Jared gave me a knowing glance as we headed to the booth where I always sat.
"Hey Chris, Em's here," Jared called into the kitchen, as he mixed me a half tea, half lemonade before sliding into the booth across from me. Chad popped in the seat next to me.
"Do we need to kill her?" He asked seriously.
"It's debatable," I decided, taking a sip of my drink and grinning as Christian set a blueberry muffin in front of me. "Thank you, Christian."
"I know," He responded, sitting next to Jared on the other side of the booth. "What happened?"
"So Kris came to visit and brought Adam with him, and apparently Ella has an issue with me speaking to anyone attractive." I started, ignoring the rolling eyes. "Ella told my parents about Nathan."
Christian's eyebrows rose and he sucked in a breath. He was the only one I'd told the complete truth about Nathan, but there were a few things I hadn't even told him.
"Momma's back," Sophia called, sticking her head through the back door. "Jared, Chad, come help us. You have long arms."
Christian stood waiting on them to grumble their way out of the seats and head outside. Sliding next to me, he touched my hand.
"I didn't know Ella knew."
"She didn't." I sighed, tears pricking my eyes. "Someone told her. I never told anyone but you the truth. She lives in fucking Charleston."
"C'mere," Christian decided. "You need a cuddle."
I laughed softly, sliding closer to him so he could wrap his arms around me.
"If I wasn't with Steve," Christian started, his low, rough voice vibrating through my cheek, "I'd be with you. You deserve someone who cares Emmalee."
I looked up at Christian in slight surprise. I knew he was bisexual, he’d told me a few months after we first met. He didn’t elaborate though, just dropped a kiss on my forehead and pulled me closer again.
"He changed you, Em. Nathan broke you and I wanted to kill him for that. Hell, I still want to kill him." Christian sighed, his arm tightening around me. "You're still not the same and for your parents to have never noticed. They lied at the hospital and I knew that."
"Christian-" You're right, I wanted to say. He was exactly right, but I couldn't admit it yet.
"It's okay, darling. It takes time." He promised, kissing my forehead. I settled against him, closing my eyes and letting him rest his chin on my head.
The bell on the door rang and I looked up to see Kris and Adam walking into the diner. Christian sighed, raising his eyebrows at me, silently asking me if he should go.
"I'll be okay." I promised softly, kissing his cheek gently and sliding away from him. Christian slid out of the booth, glancing at me once more before heading back to the kitchen.
"Em," Kris slide into the seat next to me. His eyes were worried, and he squeezed me tightly. “I calmed your parents down, but they’re still asking a lot of questions.”
“Look, Nathan wanted sex; I didn’t. He took it anyway.” I told him, bluntly. “Christian was there when I needed him.” I couldn’t tell them the truth about that yet.
Adam looked back over at Christian, doing an obvious look over and I rolled my eyes again.
“Adam, he’s taken.”
“He loves you, Emmalee.” Adam smiled, looking at him again. “He loves you a lot.”
“Yeah, I know.” I smiled for a moment before I remembered. "I can’t go home now.”
"Can you get back in?" Adam asked and I nodded. "Let's go back and you grab some clothes and stay with us."
"I can't- my parents,"
"Didn't say shit when your sister humiliated you like that." Adam finished for me, his hand tightening around mine. "You're staying with us."
"Okay," I stood with them.
"Em?" Christian called and I slipped away from Adam to go hug him. "Are you going to be okay?"
"I will." I promised him. "I'll text you later, 'kay?"
"You better," He murmured, kissing my cheek. "Be safe."
“I will,” I promised him. “Tell Steve I said hi.”
“Of course I will.” He assured me and I waved to him as we headed out of the diner.