Before jamaica lane, p.6
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       Before Jamaica Lane, p.6

         Part #3 of On Dublin Street series by Samantha Young
Page 6

  Frozen, I took in my wide-eyed expression as I indulged in a long look in the mirror. What I saw made me want to hunch my shoulders over. What I saw stole away the good mood Nate had put me in, and it reminded me why I would never end up with a guy like Benjamin Livingston.

  It’s not that I was ugly – I knew that. It was just that when I looked in the mirror I didn’t see anything particularly special. I saw a plain face, with the exception of the high cheekbones Mom gave me and my dad’s unusual golden eyes. I saw flabby arms. I hated those flabby arms of mine. At five seven I wasn’t short, but I wasn’t tall enough for my height to carry my ever-widening hips, pretty huge ass, and little rounded stomach. Thankfully I didn’t have a thick waist, but you couldn’t tell that to the little pouch on my lower belly that refused to be flat.

  After losing my mother to cancer, I knew and I believed that having a healthy body was far more important than having a skinny, fashion-friendly one. I knew that.

  I knew that.

  Yet somehow I still didn’t feel sexy or attractive. It was more than frustrating – it was painful – to know what was right but feel what was wrong.

  Saddened that I, a smart, semi-funny, nutty, loyal, good woman, could feel so negative about myself under all the smiling and humor, I felt the sting of tears in my eyes. The way I felt about my physical appearance was bad. Really freakin’ bad.

  My fists clenched at my sides as I stared at my average figure.

  I was so taking up Pilates in the morning.

  The smell of dinner wafting into the room was causing overproduction of saliva under my tongue. After three days of cutting out food that was bad for me and painfully enduring a Pilates instructional DVD, I was more than ready to chow down on Elodie Nichols’s hearty Sunday roast.

  ‘I swear to God I’m going to gnaw off a finger,’ I muttered, examining my hand.

  ‘Pardon?’ Ellie asked absentmindedly as she looked at photographs of the flower arrangements Braden and Joss had chosen for their wedding. The arrangements had been selected months ago, as was everything else. After a disastrous start with Ellie as wedding planner (not because she couldn’t do it, but because she and Joss had such different tastes), Braden had taken over organizing the wedding and Joss had helped with the decision making.

  ‘Why are you staring at those photos? Again?’

  ‘I would have gone with roses. ’

  ‘Well, I went with lilies,’ Joss butted in from across the room where she was sitting on the arm of the chair where Braden was relaxing. He was talking about something with Adam. Clark was in the other armchair by the television, somehow managing to grade papers among all our chatter. His son, Declan, a twelve-and-a-half-year-old computer geek, was huddled on the floor with Cole, playing a Nintendo DS, while Mick and Cam sat on the other end of the sofa that Ellie and I were on. Jo had disappeared upstairs with Ellie’s sixteen-year-old half sister, Hannah. They were really close and tended to disappear to Hannah’s room for a chat before dinner.

  Ellie smiled at Joss. ‘They’re still really pretty. I’ll just go with roses in my wedding. ’

  ‘Do you like roses, Adam?’ Joss asked, grinning mischievously at Ellie.

  Adam blinked as he was drawn out of his discussion with Braden. ‘Sorry?’

  ‘Roses? For your wedding? Ellie wants them. ’

  ‘Ellie can have what she wants. ’

  Looking a little nonplussed, Joss asked, ‘You don’t have a say in it?’

  He frowned. ‘Nope. My only job is to turn up and say “I do. ” ’

  Joss made a face at Braden, who looked as though he was trying really hard not to laugh. ‘How come Adam gets the job I wanted in our wedding?’

  Braden’s mouth twitched. ‘You could have had that job. I did offer to do everything myself. ’

  ‘But …’ She glanced from him to Ellie to Adam. ‘There was definite emotional manipulation involved. Ellie’s not doing that to Adam. ’

  Now Braden was laughing. ‘What emotional manipulation? I do believe I said something along the lines of “Well, I’ll plan the wedding, then. ” Nothing more. You were the one who got all mushy and grateful and decided to help out. ’

  Joss’s eyebrows hit her hairline. ‘Mushy?’

  ‘Uh-oh,’ Ellie muttered under her breath.

  I smirked and impishly added fuel to the fire. ‘Joss, you can be a little mushy. You try hard to hide it, but it slips out sometimes. ’

  ‘Uh-oh,’ Ellie muttered. ‘Silly Olivia. ’

  I shrugged, smiling, as I awaited Joss’s reaction, which was almost always guaranteed to be funny.

  Instead she just stared at me, seeming unable to come up with a response. Finally she slumped back against the arm Braden had wrapped around her waist. ‘I don’t do mushy,’ she murmured. ‘I do tender. There’s a difference. ’

  ‘Tender?’ Adam raised an eyebrow in disbelief.

  Now she definitely looked affronted. ‘I can do tender. Braden, tell him. ’

  Her fiancé grinned, and my chest did that achy, flippy thing again when he leaned over to press a loving kiss on her shoulder. God, I wanted what they had.

  Joss turned to look over her shoulder at him. ‘Was that an affirmative?’

  Braden laughed softly and looked up at Adam pointedly. ‘Jocelyn has her own brand of tender. ’

  The way he said it was filled with innuendo and she rolled her eyes and straightened away from him. ‘Now you’re just being annoying. ’ She gave us an indignant stare and insisted, ‘I can do tender. ’

  ‘I believe you,’ I replied, trying not to laugh.

  Adam quickly turned the conversation back to whatever it was he was discussing with Braden while Joss pretended to ignore them by pulling out her phone and checking her e-mails.

  I nudged Ellie. ‘So what do you think Hannah and Jo are talking about upstairs?’

  Ellie glanced up at the ceiling and blew air out between her lips. ‘Hannah’s been quiet lately – I suspect a boy is in the picture. She looks the way she looks and is absolutely hilarious and yet she’s not been out on a date yet?’ Els looked incredulous. ‘That just doesn’t seem right. I think she’s hiding a romance from us. ’

  ‘You must be dying to know for sure. ’

  ‘Oh, I am. ’ Ellie’s pretty pale blue eyes were wide with curiosity. ‘But the most important thing is that she has someone to talk to, even if it’s not me. ’

  I frowned in thought. ‘Why isn’t it you?’

  ‘I think she thinks I’d get caught up in it and fail to give her real advice. Hannah is more of a realist than I am. I think if it’s a boy issue she’ll feel more comfortable discussing it with Jo. Jo has a more practical outlook on these things, whereas I might get a little overenthused about it all. I mean, my wee sister’s first romance – that’s huge. ’

  ‘You are so dying to know what is going on with her. ’

  ‘Eh ye-uh, it’s killing me. ’

  ‘Dinner!’ Elodie called from the dining room, and we all shot up as though we’d been starving for days.

  We crammed into the dining room, inhaling the aroma of good food. Only three months ago Elodie and Clark had invested in a larger dining table because her Sunday dinners had rapidly grown in size since Joss’s arrival into their lives.

  ‘Work going okay?’ Dad asked me as we settled into our chairs next to each other.

  ‘Mm-hmm,’ I answered absentmindedly, handling the hot bowl of mashed potatoes as if they were made of pure gold.

  Dad snorted. ‘You’ve got a wee bit of drool on the corner of your mouth. ’

  ‘No, I don’t. ’ I slapped the mash on my plate gleefully and passed the bowl to him, then immediately reached for the gravy.

  ‘What’s with the cartoon hungry eyes? You not been eating right?’

  ‘I’m on a stupid diet,’ I muttered.

  I felt my dad tense next to me. ‘What the hell for?

  ‘To torture myself. I’m a masochist now. ’

  ‘Liv, you know I don’t like those fads. There’s nothing wrong with you. ’

  Oh, no. My confession had probably just bought me one of my dad’s famous food-shopping trips. When I was at college, he’d turn up at the dorm every once in a while with brown paper bags loaded with food even though I had nowhere to put it. ‘I have a full fridge at home, Dad. Don’t even think about it. ’

  ‘Hmm, we’ll see. ’

  I took a forkful of buttery mash and closed my eyes in sweet relief and said, ‘So good, I don’t even care,’ except I said it around a mouthful of potatoes, so it came out more like ‘Mu muu, u mmu mmm mmm. ’

  ‘Mick, is Dee going to the wedding with you?’ Elodie asked from the opposite end of the table. ‘Last time we spoke you said she wasn’t sure. ’

  I glanced at my dad, wanting to know the answer to that question too. I had to admit, even though I was a grown-ass woman of twenty-six, it was still weird seeing my dad with someone who wasn’t Mom.

  About four months ago, Dad started dating Dee, an attractive artist in her late thirties. Dad had reopened his painting and decorating company in Edinburgh, M. Holloway’s, and hired Jo. He’d already built up a great reputation and had recently hired two more guys to join their team. Back when it was just him and Jo, they took a job for this wealthy young couple in Morningside who’d bought their first home. It was a fixer-upper. There they met Dee, a friend of the couple who had been commissioned to paint a fairy-tale mural in the nursery. Dad and Dee hit it off. She was the first woman he’d dated seriously since Mom died.

  I was very much aware that I should be grateful to Dee. Since her appearance, Dad had less time to worry over me, which he did. A lot. When we decided to settle in Edinburgh, I made a point of getting my own apartment. We’d been in each other’s pockets for a long time, and I really needed my space – I loved my dad to pieces, but sometimes his concern made me feel like there really was something wrong with me. The addition of Dee was at once confusing and a relief. I guessed I should get to know her a little better, because all I knew at the moment was that she was nothing like Mom. My mother was a dark-haired beauty with sharp cheekbones that hinted at the Native American heritage in her blood. Her fantastic bone structure and her dark hair were the only interesting physical attributes she gave me. Somehow a merciless God had not deigned to bestow upon me my mother’s beauty. It was her beauty that caught my dad’s eye, and then it was her dry, often twisted sense of humor – which I did inherit – and then it was the calm around her. Mom could soothe any room just by being in it. She was this incredibly peaceful, relaxing person, and it emanated from her to every one around her. It was a gift.

  Despite her faults – her inconsiderate choices as a young girl – Mom was unfailingly kind, compassionate, and patient, which was why she’d made a great nurse. She’d handled her illness with a grace that always brought a lump to my throat whenever I let myself remember. She was a pretty reserved person, not overly confident, but not insecure or shy. Just quiet. Innately cool. You can’t teach that kind of cool. I should know because I’m pretty sure she tried to teach it to me and it clearly didn’t stick. I had no intention of trying to browbeat my inner geek for the chance to be cool. No, thank you. Me and my inner geek were loyal to each other. We had been ever since I was eight years old and my mother told me it was okay to be whoever I chose to be.

  ‘Mom, Arnie Welsh keeps calling me a geek. He says it like it’s a bad thing. Is being a geek a bad thing?’

  ‘Of course not, Soda Pop. And don’t listen to labels. They don’t matter. ’

  ‘What are labels?’

  ‘It’s an imaginary sticker people slap on you with the word they think you are written on it. It doesn’t matter who they think you are. It matters who you think you are. ’

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