Secrets Kept, Lies Told

Secrets Kept, Lies Told
By Sarah
Chapter 9

    "Why don't they ever talk to me, AJ?"  Alexa asked her brother as she sat on his bed.  She was watching him pack, getting ready to leave the hotel they were in.  It had been a week since Alexa had joined them, and she noticed that none of the guys ever talked to her.  They stayed away from her, averting their glances when she saw them looking.  They tried to talk, but once AJ came in the room, everything was quiet.
    "I don't know, Alexa, maybe you should start the conversation," AJ said, laying another shirt in the suitcase.  Alexa watched him for a few moments before answering.
    "But I don't know what to say," she admitted.
    AJ smiled and looked at her.  "Maybe that's why they haven't talked to you, they don't know how to start.  Its ok, Aly, they'll start talking to you soon," he said, using the nickname he'd already given her.
    "Ok, Alex," she said, using the nickname she'd given him.  She spent so much time with AJ, her brother, and she knew him in and out.  She thought it was weird how their first names were so much alike, but understood why no one called him Alex.  It would get confusing, especially since Alexa herself
sometimes answered to that name.  Besides, she knew he liked AJ better.
    AJ smiled again and ruffled Alexa's curls.  "Go help Mom pack, I'm gonna finish up here, then I'll come and get you and we'll go get something to eat, ok?"
    Alexa nodded as she stood up.  "You mean, McDonalds, right?"  She asked.
    "Good, I'm in the mood for a nice double-quarter pounder with cheese," Alexa said involuntarily as she walked to the door.
    "You like the quarter pounders?"  AJ asked incredulously.
    Alexa turned and nodded.  "Yup, but the double ones only, the regular ones are never enough," she said, smiling.
    AJ laughed as she turned back around and walked to the main room.  She stepped over the luggage already stacked there and over to her mother, who was busy loading her own suitcase.
    "Alexa, honey, hand me that T-shirt over there," her mother said, without looking.
    "How did you know it was me?"  Alexa asked as she grabbed the T-shirt.
    "I just knew," her mother said, turning around.  She gave Alexa a hug.  "I know when my baby is around, I can feel it."
    Alexa smiled and hugged her back.  She never felt so wanted in her life, she loved the feeling.  And she knew she never smiled that much either, she loved to smile now.  "Mom, can I ask you something?"
    "Sure, honey, what's up?"
    "Well, for some reason, none of the guys are talking to me.  I mean, AJ does, but that's it.  None of them talk to me, or look at me.  Sometimes they try, but then they look away, occupy themselves with other things.  Am I doing something wrong?"  Alexa asked, worried.  She sat on the bed in front of her mother's suitcase and pulled her knees to her chest.
    Her mother shook her head and stopped packing.  "No, baby, they're probably just preoccupied.  Maybe you should start the conversation next time, maybe that'll help."
    "That's exactly what AJ told me, but for some reason, I have this feeling that he's happy no one's talked to me, like he doesn't want them to," Alexa admitted.
    Her mother shook her head and zippered her suitcase closed.  "I'm sure he doesn't, Alexa, I'm sure he wants everyone to like you, and he's trying to help.  I'll talk to the guys, find out what's going on, if you want me to," she suggested.
    Alexa shook her head, making her curls shake back and forth.  "No, that's ok.  I'll try talking to them."
    Her mother smiled and kissed her forehead.  "That's my girl."
    "Your girl and I are splitting," AJ said, walking in the room and over to Alexa.
    "Really, where are you taking her to?"  Their mother asked, a worried
look on her face.
    "Out to eat," AJ said, helping Alexa stand up.
    "Ok, pick me up one of those McFlurrie things while you're there, please?  An oreo one, preferably."
    Alexa laughed and walked hand in hand to the door with AJ.  "You know where we're going just by the fact that we're going out to eat?"
    "Yup, I know that before we leave every town, AJ has to go out and get McDonalds, its tradition."
    Alexa laughed and waved goodbye to her mother.  She walked down the hall with AJ and to the elevator.  "You know, AJ, I think Mom has us planned out."
    "Does she, how?"  AJ asked as he pressed the lobby button.
    "She knew when I walked into the room, without looking, without me saying anything.  And she knows exactly where you and I were going to go, before we told her.  Doesn't that strike you as a bit strange?"  Alexa asked as the elevator stopped.
    AJ shook his head and pushed his sunglasses on his nose and pulled his hat on his head.  "Nah, that's just Mom.  She'll do the strangest things, and then predict what your reaction is going to be.  Trust me, you'll get used to it after a while."
    Alexa shrugged as they walked down the street, still hand in hand.  They walked to the McDonalds, chattering the whole way.  They stood in line and finally got to the counter about ten minutes later.
    "Ok, I'll have a double-quarter pounder with cheese and a coke," Alexa said, leaning her elbows on the counter.
    "And I'll have a quarter pounder with cheese and a coke," AJ said.
    "And the McFlurrie with oreos," they said at the same time.  Alexa looked up at AJ and giggled.
    "You know, we really have to stop doing that, Mom is gonna catch us one time and we'll be her proof to her theory," Alexa said.
    "Really, what theory is that?"  AJ asked as he pulled money out of his pocket.
    "That we think exactly alike, talk exactly alike, and act exactly alike.  I'm starting to wonder if she's right," Alexa said, pulling one of the two bags towards her.
    "I don't know, I still think we have one major difference," AJ said, grabbing the other bag and grabbing Alexa's arm.
    "I can sing."
    "Who said I couldn't sing?"  Alexa demanded as they walked to the door.  She stopped by the door and looked him in the eye.  "Who said I couldn't sing?"  She asked again.
    "No one, I assumed you couldn't," AJ said, surprised.
    "I can sing," Alexa insisted.
    "Really, let me hear you sing," AJ said, backing her up to the wall.
    Alexa shook her head.  "No way, you said you doubted that I could."
    "Come on, please?"
    "No, you doubt me."
    "No, I don't.  Not anymore, please?  Sing!"
    Alexa sighed and looked around, it was fairly crowded in the place, but noisy enough that no one could hear her.  "Ok, I'll sing something that you sing."  She decided.  "I don't care who you are, where you're from, what you did, as long as you love me," she sang, trying to keep her voice quiet.
    "Alexa, that was great!"  AJ exclaimed.
    Alexa shook her head and blushed, looking down.  "No it wasn't, I sound awful."
    AJ shook his head and pushed her chin up to look in her eyes.  "No, you don't.  You sound wonderful, really, you do.  Don't ever let anyone doubt you, not for a second."
    "You mean, like you just did now?"  Alexa asked slyly.
    AJ laughed.  "Exactly, don't ever let anyone doubt you or put your hopes down, you have to remember to look on the bright side of everything and find the light in the darkness."
    Alexa rolled her eyes and reached for the door.  "My brother, AJ McLean, the poet," she said.  She froze in her tracks as she faced a group of girls in front of her, every one of them had faces white as chalk.
    "Alexa" AJ started.  "Run!"  He exclaimed, grabbing her arm.
    Alexa ran as fast as she could, back towards the hotel, trying to stay out of the grasp of the girls running after them.  She couldn't believe that this was all because of her brother.  She held tightly to his hand and
spotted a familiar alley.  She pulled him across the street, towards the alley.
    "Alexa, what are you doing?  We have to go the other way!"  AJ said, trying to resist her.
    "No, this way, I know my way around here, AJ," she insisted, pulling him in the alley.  It was rather dark and dank, but it served its purpose.  Alexa jumped onto a box, onto a crate, then on top of the dumpster.  She hauled her body over the fence and looked back at AJ.  "Come on, AJ, jump!"  She cried, hearing the screaming coming closer.
    AJ shook his head from the other side of the fence.  "No way, I'll kill myself," he said.
    Alexa shook her head and held out her hands.  "No, trust me, AJ, you won't.  Toss me the bag and jump!"  She exclaimed, glancing behind him at the girls.
    AJ tossed Alexa the bag and hauled himself over the fence.  Alexa helped him to his feet and led him to the other end of the alley, turning right instead of her usual left.  They kept running until they reached another alley that Alexa pulled AJ into.
    "Now what?"  AJ asked, leaning against the brick wall.
    Alexa tried to catch her breath quickly and walked to the door.  "Now, let's go upstairs and give Mom her McFlurrie before she goes ballistic wondering where we are," she said, pulling it open.
    "This is the hotel?"  AJ asked incredulously, following her.
    Alexa nodded and led him to the back stairs.  "Yup, betcha thought this was just another building, huh?  I told you I know my way around the city."  She led him up to the hotel room and opened the door, then collapsed on the bed in there, in front of everyone, not caring about their surprised looks.

    'Oh my Lord, I hurt everywhere,' AJ said to himself.  He walked in the hotel room behind Alexa and collapsed on the bed next to her.  "Ow," he said, wincing.
    "What on earth happened to you two?"
    "Screaming.... running.... McDonalds... to here...don't think I've ever ran... so fast
before," Alexa said between breaths.
    Her mother sat next to her head.  "Who saw you?"  She asked, smoothing back Alexa's curls.
    "No one, I said something stupid and it was right in front of a bunch of people and they started chasing us," Alexa explained, closing her eyes.  She held up her bag.  "Oh, here's your McFlurrie," she said.
    AJ chuckled and closed his own eyes, he never remembered running so fast.  He sat up and looked in his bag, then at Alexa.  "Gimme my burger," he demanded.
    "What was that, AJ?  I didn't quite hear you," Alexa said, unwrapping her burger noisily.  She took a bite and looked at AJ with a questioning look on her face.
    "Very funny little sister, gimme my burger," he said, holding out his hand.
    Alexa shrugged and took another bite.  "I don't know what you're talking about, AJ, I only have my burger," she said.
   "Alexa, I have the bag of fries and drinks, you have the bag of burgers.  Gimme my burger," AJ demanded again.
    Alexa shook her head and got up, carrying her bag.  "Nope, I only have my burger and Mom's McFlurrie, I don't know what you're talking about."
    AJ got up and chased her around the room.  He caught her and tried to reach for the bag.  "Gimme my burger, Aly!"  He half-whined, half-begged.
    "Hey, Brian, want a burger?"  Alexa asked.  She tossed him the bag and he greedily took the burger out of the bag.
    "No!"  AJ exclaimed, lunging for Brian.  Brian tossed the burger back to Alexa and they played monkey in the middle, AJ being the monkey.
    "What's wrong, AJ, can't catch?"  Alexa teased, tossing the burger back to Brian.
    "No, I can, I just want it before it gets cold!"  AJ exclaimed, trying to jump and intercept it, but he missed.
    "Such a pity, AJ, I'd hate to see a good burger go to waste," Brian said, smiling.  He held up the burger in AJ's face and laughed.  "Come and get it, bro," he said.
    AJ finally got smart and walked towards Brian.  He waited until he threw the burger, then hurried over to Alexa.  He tickled her and grabbed the package as it came sailing through the air.  "I got it!"  He exclaimed, sitting on the bed, pulling Alexa with him.
    "Hey, no fair, no tickling allowed," Alexa pouted.
    AJ smiled, his mouth full.  "All's fair in love, war, and McDonalds food."
    Alexa laughed and AJ hugged her closer to him.  He felt so lucky to have her, he didn't want to let her go.
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