It was Monday morning and Cole was excited in spite of all the drama at the Bluffs. As he stood in the shower with the steaming pouring down on him, he thought about Laney. As much as it had hurt seeing her, in a way, it gave him a sense of finality, which truly made it easier to let her go and move on. To focus on his studies.
After he got out, he went to his room to finish packing while Ami talked his ear off asking question after question. She and his parents were going to fly to Brindleton Bay with him and help him get everything moved in. He figured Ami was most excited about getting on a plane and maybe seeing some dreamy college boys.
He would be living in one of the duplexes on campus because of his scholarship. It would be just him and one student on ones side and two on the other. He hadn’t met his roommate yet but they had exchanged a couple of texts. He seemed nice enough. He was in his second year so he said he would help Cole learn his way around campus and the town, which he was happy about.
It was mid-morning when Ben arrived in Brindleton Bay with his family. The air was crisp and cool, much different than it was in Willow Creek where it was still warm and humid.
He parked the rental car in the drive in front of the Duplex. His kids practically fought over who would bail out of the car and be the first to get to the front door, as if they were 10 years old. He and Sofia held back enjoying their excitement. It was bittersweet knowing he was going home with just one child, not two.
When Ben descended the stairs into the apartment, he felt a weird as sense of déjà vu wash over him. It was as if he had been hurdled into the past.
He could suddenly hear Emma’s voice calling him a dick-hay-ud, while Nick and Racheal laughed.
He was laying in Grace’s lap while she took selfies of his slobber running down his face and laughing at him.
Then the two of them were making love in the marijuana closet.
Soon, they were bringing their son home from the hospital to the same old apartment, and it was enough for the three of them.
He jumped when he felt Grace’s warm hands on his face calling his name. “Grace?” he asked, looking around and feeling confused. He was quickly hurdled back into the present. And the realization that Grace wasn’t there hit him hard, because it truly felt like she had been.
“No Daddy, it’s me, Ami. What’s wrong?” she asked, her warm hands on his face. His daughter’s hands, not Grace’s.
Ben blinked and looked around. Why am I on the floor? he wondered. He surveyed the room, trying to get his bearings, he saw Ami’s terrified face and it crushed him. Next, he saw his son, the baby that Grace was holding so lovingly. He appeared to be frightened too. Then it hit him where he was. He was in Cole’s new apartment.
“Cole, help me get to the couch,” said Ben, feeling embarrassed. “I think I was having flashbacks. I’m so sorry. It’s been a long time since it happened.”
“Flashbacks? Daddy, are you okay?” asked Ami, her voice trembling.
Ben needed Sofia. He looked around frantically for her. “Ami, where’s your mom?” he asked, trying his best to keep his voice calm, although he was almost in a panic. His poor kids seeing him collapse. He didn’t know what he said or did while he was in the past. Cole didn’t know the gory details. And he hadn’t planned on telling him. Ever.
“She’s getting you a glass of water, Dad,” said Cole answering for Ami.
“Daddy, you’re scaring me,” said Ami and scooted as close to him on the couch as she could.
Ben put his arm around his daughter and did his best to reassure her. “Princess, I’m okay. Just some things I haven’t thought about for a very long time came rushing back. I guess it kinda took me by surprise. I’m okay now sweetie. I promise.”
Sofia walked back in. “Here you go babe,” she said gently as she put the glass on the table and sat down next to him. “Are you okay? We lost you there for a sec.”
“Dad…really….what just happened? You mentioned Grace,” said Cole, obviously shaken, just managing to hole it together better than Ami.
Ben began to remember feeling her – Grace – touching his face and began to get emotional. It had seemed so real. He couldn’t answer because he couldn’t talk. He didn’t think he could talk about it.
Ami on the other hand, seemed to have relaxed when her mother sat down and chimed in. “Yeah Dad. You did say Grace. She is Cole’s real mother, right? And you also said you weren’t a ‘dick-hay-ud’, just like that. Like how Aunt Emma talks.”
He took a cleansing breath and risked a glance at Sofia, fearing she would be upset. But it was just the opposite.
Her gaze, although swimming with unshed tears, held so much love and compassion that he immediately relaxed. Once, he had been her rock, now she was his. He loved her with his whole being.
He took a breath of relief before answering. “It’s nothing Cole,” he said finally, “I’m okay now. As I said, it was just memories from my own college days that came rushing back unexpectedly. Those days were rough, to say the least.” He stopped and took another deep breath. “It was when I lost your mother,” he added softly, “And maybe, at times, I was a bit of a ‘dick-hay-ud’.”
He turned and looked at his gorgeous daughter before continuing. “And, Ami, don’t you ever say that again.”
Ben turned his attention to his son and felt his chest swell with pride. The amount of love he had for his family was overwhelming him, and he began to get emotional again.
“Cole, I wish I could tell you what not to do. But maybe, I don’t need to. You aren’t like me. You are so much more like your mother – Grace – I mean,” he said clarifying himself. “She was smart and focused and looked at things logically. I was too hot headed and stubborn, with a huge chip on my shoulder, to listen to anyone. I just did things without thinking them through.
“We were extremely lucky that your mom…came into our lives when she did,” he said and smiled at Sofia. “I love you all so much. I can’t help but worry.”
Everyone was getting weepy eyed. “Geez, Dad,” said Cole and swallowed audibly, “Enough of the mushy stuff. You got them both crying. We need to get unpacked.”
Ben pulled both of his ladies tighter to him and kissed Ami on the forehead. Then he turned to his wife. “I love you,” he said and sipped her lips.
“Ewww Daddy,” said Ami and rolled her eyes.
“You should be used to that by now Squirt,” said Cole smirking, “You know they do that all the time.”
Everyone laughed except Ami. “I’m checking out the upstairs,” she said pouting a little, and took off for the stairs leaving everyone else downstairs laughing.
It was easy to figure out which room was Cole’s and they soon had everything unpacked. They had just made it back downstairs, when there was a knock at the door and a young man walked in.
“Hi!” he said cheerfully, “I saw you guys get here but hung next door to give you some time to get settled.”
He turned to Cole. “You must be Cole Murdock. Nice to meet ya in person,” he said and stuck out his hand, “Landon Lockhart. I’m your roomie for the next three years. This must be your family.”
“Hi Landon,” said Cole, “Yes. These are my parents, Ben and Sofia Murdock, and my baby sister Amelia.”
“Hi Landon. You can call me Ami. Are you going to be a vet too?” she asked.
“Yep! Large animals, cows, horses and the like,” he replied enthusiastically.
“Horses sound soooo cool,” she gushed, “I would love to ride one someday.”
Cole looked at Ami in shock. Was she actually trying to flirt with Landon?
“Oh, I love horses. Riding takes practice though. I hope someday to be able to afford a stable of my own,” replied Landon.
“Okay,” said his father, thankfully interrupting the horse discussion, “Cole, we are gonna head to the hotel. Do you two want to go grab a bite to eat first? Landon, you are welcome to join us.”
“Oh. I had already invited the girls over. We were hoping to get acquainted with Cole over dinner,” replied Landon. “No problem Cole, go with the fam, we can mingle later.”
“What girls?” asked Cole confused.
“The two, that live on the other side of our duplex,” said Landon with a grimace.
“Cole, why don’t you go ahead and go with Landon,” suggested Sofia, “It will be more fun than hanging with us.”
“Ohhh. Can I go with Cole and Landon?” asked Ami in that tone of voice that always got her way with their father.
“Hey, she can come. It’ll be fun,” said Landon graciously.
“What time will you be back?” asked Ben, obviously caving once again, “We’ll come pick her up, or maybe you can just drop her off at the hotel. It isn’t far.”
“Daddy,” said Ami sweetly, “can I please spend the night with Cole?”
Ben, Sofia and Cole said “No” simultaneously.
Ami looked like she was really going to cry. And not just her fake to-get-my-way tears.
“Dad, it’s bad enough your letting her come to dinner….” said Cole knowing he wasn’t going to win this fight either.
“Hey, let her stay,” said Landon. “She can take Cole’s bed and he can take the couch. It’s just for one night. Right?”
Cole was confused by Landon. Is he trying to get brownie points with his parents, or does just not know how young Ami really is?
“Pleeeese Daddy…” she said looking at Ben, batting her big blue eyes.
“Cole?” asked Ben.
“Fine,” conceded Cole with an appropriate eye roll, “but you act like a twerp and you will never be allowed to stay again.”
Ami threw her arms around him, nearly knocking him over. “Thanks. I promise to be nice.”
His father hugged his mother. “Do you think they have Tiramisu?” he asked.
She blushed and giggled. “I bet they do.”
“Dad! Mom! God…really?” said Cole, completely embarrassed.
Ben and Sofia looked at each other and then at Cole in surprise.
“I’m really glad I’m not going now!” said Ami, giving her best disgusted face, “I hate Tiramisu! You ALWAYS want that. It’s so gross.”
Cole’s parents started laughing. “Thank god,” said Ben, leaving Ami totally confused.
“Come here Ami,” said Cole eyeing his parents. He whispered in her ear so only she could hear, “It’s their code word for sex.”
Ami let out an ear splitting scream. “NO! No, no, no.”
Sofia looked at Cole horrified. “You just didn’t?”
“Right of passage…” said Cole, quite proud of himself for successfully getting back at Ami and his parents all in one fell swoop.
By now, Landon had figured out what they were talking about. “Okay then…Amelia, going or staying?” he asked, the corners of his mouth twitching upwards. Cole was amazed at how he just jumped right in, with all the confidence in the world, and took charge, effectively diffusing the situation.
“Definitely staying, gawd! I never want to go home with them again,” said Ami glaring at her parents and Cole.
“Sorry Squirt, you can’t stay here forever, you have to go home with them and suffer, just like I did.”
“We need to go,” said Sofia, “It was nice to meet you Landon. And sorry about the, um, family drama.”
“We’ll be by in the morning around 9:00 to say bye and pick up Ami,” said his dad, “Call us if she gets in the way.” Then he walked over to Landon and shook his hand. “It was nice to meet you.”
“Bye baby, I love you,” said Sofia and hugged Cole with tears in her eyes.
“Stop it mom. You guys go have your desert,” said Cole rolling his eyes.
“Cole!” squealed Ami and Sofia at the same time, while Ben and Landon snickered.
Cole, Ami and Landon went to the local burger place and got a table.
“Lesson one,” said Landon, “this food is much better than the cafeteria.”
Cole laughed. “Isn’t that always the truth,” he agreed.
“Ami, where are you planning to go to school?” asked Landon, “Following in your brother’s footsteps?”
“No. He’s way smarter than me. I haven’t really thought about it yet.”
Landon looked up and waved at two girls walking in. “Oh, look, here comes our neighbors! Jackpot, huh?” he said to Cole and waggled his eyebrows.
The two girls were attractive, thought Cole, but he wasn’t interested in anything but a friendship. Before he got serious with anyone else, he would make sure they knew exactly where they were going to live and what they wanted out of life.
“They are pretty,” said Ami with a sigh.
“See. Even your sister agrees,” said Landon and laughed.
The two girls pulled up chairs and sat down. “Have you ordered yet?” asked the girl with long black hair.
“No, you got here just in time. Cole, meet our neighbors, Yasmine Paris and Blake Hudson. Ladies, may I present your new neighbor, Cole Murdock.”
As they exchanged greetings, Ami glared at Cole. “Oh, and this annoying tick is my little sister, Ami,” he said, “She couldn’t bear to be without me so begged to stay the night and my parents agreed.”
“Yes, because she doesn’t like Tiramisu,” said Landon and laughed.
Cole couldn’t help but snicker earning a glare from his sister.
Yasmine looked at Blake and shrugged. “Guess you had to be there.”
Landon happily explained Tiramisu.
Yasmine and Blake burst out laughing. “O.M.G! That’s so cool,” said Yasmine then turned her attention to Cole. “Honey, I haven’t met your folks and I already like them. If you’re anything like them, we could certainly have some fun.”
“Uh, my little sister is sitting right here. She’s only thirteen,” said Cole putting emphasis on the word little.
Ami’s face had red blotches on it like she might cry. She sunk further down into her chair when Cole told everyone how old she was. Cole actually felt really bad for her.
Yasmine looked at Ami. “Oh…honey, I’m so sorry. You look so much older. I thought you and Cole were like twins or something.”
At that Ami sat up straight in her chair and smiled. She did look older than her 13 years. She could easily pass for a college Freshman.
“Ami, honey, the hamburgers here are to die for,” said Yasmine. “You should totally get one.”
“Okay, thanks,” said Ami beaming at the attention from Yasmine .
They got their food and talked about safe subjects the rest of the evening. Cole observed Yasmine and how she handled Ami. She confused him. She was aggressive, yet knew exactly how to put Ami at ease and bring her into the conversation. By the time they left, you would have thought those two were BFFs.
He also watched Landon and Blake. They were already making eyes at each other. It was going to be an interesting semester with those two next door.
When they got back to the duplex. Cole went in to make sure Ami was settled in his bed and to grab a blanket so he could sleep on the couch. When he walked in, it looked like she had been crying.
Instead of leaving, he went and sat down next to her, concerned. “What’s wrong sis?” he asked gently.
“I’m scared,” she whispered.
He was shocked. Ami was never afraid. “We can leave the light on if you want.”
“No…I’m not afraid of the dark. I’m scared about you being here,” she said and looked at her hands embarrassed.
“Hey, I’m gonna be fine sis, you don’t have to worry about me.”
She looked up at him. “But what if I’m not?” she asked, as a big sob escaped and tears rolled down her cheeks.
Cole pulled her to him. Now he was fighting back tears as he held his sister tight and stroked her hair. “You’ll be fine Ami. But I sure as hell am gonna miss giving you grief. Maybe I should tell Dad to call you Squirt and mess with you and Aubrie.”
“No! I’m only ever gonna be princess to Daddy,” she said into his chest and caught her breath.
“You can still be his princess,” he said, gently rubbing her back, “Yasmine was right though, you could easily pass for a college Freshman. The sooner Mom and Dad get you outta here the better. Can’t have those older guys hitting on you.”
“You think they would?”
“Ami….you need to get to sleep. Mom and Dad will kill me if you are grouchy on the way home tomorrow because I kept you up.”
“Cole….do you remember when I was born?” she asked softly, ignoring his request to lie down.
“Yes. I do,” he said tenderly. He remembered how happy everyone was.
They laid down together and continued to talk and reminisce until Ami finally fell asleep. Cole leaned over and kissed her cheek. “I love you Squirt, he whispered, “and I’m gonna miss you too.”
He tiptoed out of the bedroom and laid down on the couch. He fell asleep thinking about his potential future after college. He hoped one day he would find someone that wanted to share Tiramisu with him for the rest of his life, and maybe they would have a little girl who would want him to call her princess.
A/N: I hope you like the new college buddies. We will be seeing them throughout the college years and maybe beyond….and don’t worry….Nicky and Mickey won’t be far. Thanks to the following for letting me use and abuse their sims… 🙂
Landon Lankford by: SuperKyle
Blakely (Blake) Hudson by: Haswh
Yasmine Paris by: Pammiechick