Chapter Eleven: Denial
With one week left in vacation, Dallas had not seen a trace of Natalia. He sat in the television area. Where has she been? He wondered. Although they lived in the same house, it was as though she had made herself scarce. Like someone had heard his thoughts, he heard footsteps coming down the stairs. Dallas looked to see who it was. Natalia! He thought as he saw her walk down the hall. He quickly moved back to where he was sitting.
As soon as Natalia saw him, he could hear her groan. She turned sharply on her heel and started to walk back. “Lia? Lia! What’s up?” Dallas called to her. Natalia didn’t pay any heed. She ran quickly up the stairs.
“What is her problem?” Dallas wondered out loud. I thought we were alright now…he thought to himself. Since their dinner at the Pickle Barrel, Natalia had been out of sight. Why are girls so hard to figure out? He questioned.
The last few days Dallas had spent watching movies and television, as well as exercising. January was upon him. The training camp would be starting soon. He would have to work hard to get one of the five spots for the team. This was his last shot at getting what he longed for. As Dallas’ thoughts wandered, they returned back to Natalia.
He walked up the stairs to his room. He was going to change before heading out for the soccer center. He had just walked into the hallway when he saw her. Natalia had gotten out of her room when she saw him. She quickly turned to go back, but Dallas was too fast for her. He stood in front of her; he had grabbed her hand, pulling her to him.
“Natalia, what’s wrong?” Dallas asked with concern. “Nothing, now let go of me.” Natalia didn’t even look at him as she said this. Natalia tried to pull her hand out of his, but Dallas didn’t let go.
“Lia, please, why are you avoiding me? I thought we were past the awkwardness?” Dallas asked her. Natalia still wouldn’t look at him. “Really? Well you thought wrong!” She told him, yanking her hand out of his grip. Dallas stood rooted where he was standing, as Natalia slammed the door in his face.
An hour had passed, Natalia was sitting at her desk, fuming. Past the awkwardness…right! She thought. We were avoiding the awkwardness...not past it…She realized. I still hate you Dallas! She was furious with herself and with him.
He had probably called the waitress the next day. Natalia had noticed how little he stayed at home since he was at home. He had left shortly after she had slammed the door. Probably gone to see her…Natalia wondered. Why do I care again? She questioned herself. It made no sense, why was she angry at him when technically she didn’t like him.
This is so stupid, why am I doing this to myself…the thought had been occurring to her since she had begun giving Dallas the silent treatment. Pointless…she thought. It was her house, yet she was the one holed up in her room.
I’m not jealous…I’m definitely not jealous…She repeated the mantra over and over in her head. Who am I kidding...I am…urgh…stupid Dallas…I wish he had never come back…She thought much to her dismay. Moving from her desk to her bed, Natalia lay staring at the wall. Dallas…I wish I didn’t feel anything…She thought miserably.
“Lia! I’m home!” She heard a familiar voice call her. Natalia got up and went to see who had come home. There was only one possibility. “Hey Derek.” Natalia said sullenly from where she stood at the top of the stairs. “How are you?” Her older brother asked. “Fine.” With that she retreated back to her room.
Dallas had tried hard to concentrate on the tasks at hand. As he played with some of the other guys trying out for the top five spots, his mind kept wandering back to Natalia. I can’t distract myself, he thought over and over again. No good is going to come out of me worrying over other things…He was tired of reasoning with himself.
He wanted badly to confront Natalia and demand and answer from her. Even he knew he wouldn’t win that war. She was stubborn to the bone. He sighed exasperatedly. Driving home, he was still wound up about what Natalia was angry with him about.
He shut the car door much harder than he had meant to. Trudging to the front door, he unlocked it and entered. He saw Derek standing in the television area, apparently watching something.
“Hey.” Dallas called out to him as he took off his shoes. Derek nodded. Once Dallas had hung up his jacket, he joined Derek. Derek was apparently watching ‘Wipeout’. Dallas got himself a glass of water. He sat down and watched as the next few contestants tumbled over the obstacles.
“Getting ready for the training camp?” Derek asked, turning to look at Dallas. Dallas finished his glass of water, before speaking. “Yea, I’m hoping I can make it on to the team.” He told him. “I do too. Any plans if you don’t?” Derek had asked the one question that had been cornering Dallas the entire time.
Dallas thought about it. He had mulled over the different scenarios and had come up with only one solution. “If I don’t make it, then I think it’s best to cut my losses…I’m just going to finish my degree and maybe go into teaching. As for soccer, I’m thinking this is my last shot.” He told his friend in honesty. “Really? This is it? What if something better came along the way?” Derek asked, surprised. “I don’t know, but I do know that this is it. I don’t think I can handle any more let downs.” He told him. “I hear you.” Derek told him.
They were quiet a moment. Dallas decided to get one of his problems out of the way. “Derek, what’s with Natalia?” Dallas asked him, rather bluntly. “Oh you mean the whole cold shoulder treatment?” Derek asked. “Yea.” “No idea…although I believe the cold front is aimed at you.” Derek told him. “What gave that away? I figured that much, but do you have any idea why?” Dallas asked, hoping that maybe Derek held some answers. “Nope, I’ve been meaning to ask her myself.” Derek told him.
The two of them watched the rest of the show. Dallas decided to stay and watch a little but more television before heading upstairs. He saw Derek walk quietly to the upper level.
Natalia lay sprawled across her bed, with her hands out in front of her holding a book. She had been trying to get into the mood to read ‘The Blue Girl’ when she heard a knock at her door. “What?” She called out. “Are you hungry?” Derek had entered her room. “No, not really.” She told him, getting back to her book. “Are you sure?” He persisted. “Yes, I’m sure. I’m not hungry.” She told him, a little forcefully.
“Touchy, aren’t you?” Her brother asked her, apparently noticing her mood. “I’m fine, okay.” She told him. She was facing her open book once again. If she was careful, Derek wouldn’t worry about what was bothering her. Too late for that…- She thought as she looked to see Derek open his mouth. No doubt to question me, she knew instantly.
“Why are you staying up here? Aren’t you on vacation? Shouldn’t you be having fun?” He asked her. Natalia sighed. She knew she couldn’t avoid Derek, but she was going to try. “I’m happy up in my room. I cleaned it up…that took forever…I’m having fun.” She tried to convince him.
Derek sighed, she could see him roll his eyes at her. “You hate cleaning your room, Lia. I’m not stupid. I know what…or should I say who your avoiding.” He told her. Why did he have to know so much, Natalia wondered darkly.
“I’m not avoiding anyone.” Natalia lied vehemently. “Really? I’ve seen you check the hall before coming downstairs…now if that’s not avoiding, I don’t know what is.” He told her. He was right, Natalia admitted to herself.
“Now, I’m going to stay here until you tell me why you’re avoiding Dallas.” Derek strode to her desk, he closed the door, and sat in the chair. Natalia blew out an explosive breath, and closed her eyes. Derek wasn’t going to go until she told him. When she opened them, he was still there…expecting an answer.
A few minutes passed them, as they sat in silence. Natalia weighed her options. Either she told him what was bothering her…or she could run for the bathroom and lock herself in. Either way he was going to get the entire story from her. Just because she could lock herself in the bathroom; didn’t mean that he would drop the subject…in fact he would probably persist and get it out of her.
What’s the use…She thought. “I’m not avoiding Dallas.” She told her brother, half heartedly trying to get him to drop the subject. “Really? So that’s why you check the halls. Are you scared of a ghost?” Derek scoffed. “No, but I’m not avoiding anything. Can you stop questioning me now?” Natalia tried to get him off her case.
“Nope, not until you tell me what’s going on. I know you, Natalia. It’s obvious you’re hiding from something.” He told her. Yea, like from my feelings…she thought. He knew her so well, he had her behaviour all mapped out.
They sat in silence for a while longer. Derek crossed his arms behind his head and leaned back into the chair. “Take as long as you want…I’m not in a hurry.” He told her. Just my luck, she thought.
More time passed, and Natalia knew she was going to have to tell him. “Alright fine, I am avoiding Dallas. Happy now?” She told him, turning to face the wall. “No I’m not happy. Why are you avoiding him this time?” He asked her. Natalia did a double take. What! She thought. “What do you mean this time? I haven’t been avoiding him more than one time…” She tired to say, but Natalia faltered. “Seriously, squirt…you need to start admitting this stuff to yourself. Why are you avoiding him?” Derek asked her.
“It’s nothing. Really…” She told him. “If it’s nothing, then why avoid him?” Derek asked. “No reason.” She tried to stubbornly defend herself. “Alright, I guess I’m going to have to wait until you decide to tell me.” He told her. Why! Why does Derek have unlimited patience? Natalia wondered in annoyance.
She waited, and waited. Still Derek wouldn’t leave her room. “The reason I’m avoiding him is because I hate him.” She told Derek. “That’s not the reason. You two were getting along fine a few days ago.” Derek observed.
Derek got up and sat beside Natalia on the bed. He leaned against the wall. “Why won’t you tell me?” He asked. Derek looked a little hurt. Since she was little, Natalia had always told Derek pretty much everything. Natalia caved in.
“Alright, I’ll tell you. Thanks for the guilt trip.” She said to him, giving up. She put the book on her bed. “I…think…maybe…I…” She started. Derek sighed. “You like him, don’t you?” He asked. Natalia sulked. “Unfortunately…yea…maybe…” She muttered. She looked up to see what expression was playing on his face. It was blank. “Is that why you’re avoiding him?” He pried further. It’s like being interrogated…Natalia thought.
“No…” She told him. Tired of trying to escape his questions, Natalia had decided to answer him directly. “Then why?” Derek asked. Natalia closed her eyes once more and then opened them again. “Because he probably likes someone else.” She told him, admitting her fear. At this Derek looked puzzled. “Who?” He asked her. “Mollie…” Natalia muttered.
At once Derek’s face rid itself of the look of confusion. It seemed as though everything had become clear to him. “You think he’s going out with Mollie? Is that why you’re giving him the cold shoulder?” He asked her, it was clear that he sounded amused. “You make it sound really stupid…” She muttered unhappily. “Well no offence, but it kind of is. He’s not going out with her.” Derek told her.
“What are you talking about?” Natalia asked, now she was confused. “She gave her number to him. He’s been out almost every evening. Where else could he be?” She asked of her older brother. “He’s practicing for the TFC training camp. He didn’t call Mollie.” Derek told her.
Natalia felt extremely stupid. This whole time she had been riled up because of that…now it turned out that he hadn’t even gone with Mollie…great…Natalia thought miserably. She leaned her head against Derek’s leg.
“I feel like an idiot.” She told him. Derek ran a hand through her hair. “You’ll get over it.” He told her. “I don’t want to like him.” She told him. “It’s like there’s no way out of this mess…I’m scared that I like him way too much…” She whispered her fear to Derek. “I can’t help you with that…but I’ll be right here whenever you need me.” He reassured her.
They stayed like that for a moment. Derek got up to leave. “Squirt,” He said before leaving. “Yea?” She asked. “He didn’t even keep Mollie’s number…he threw it in the garbage as we left the restaurant.” He told her. Natalia shook her head, covering her face with her hands. “Why are you telling me this?” She asked him. “So you’ll go easy on him.” Derek told her.
As soon as Derek had left; Natalia fell back onto her pillows. How was she going to get past this embarrassment?
Dallas walked up the stairs, as he came to the landing he crossed paths with Derek. “Don’t worry; she’s not going to be giving you the cold front any more.” Derek told him as he passed. “Hold on, why was she giving it to me before?” Dallas asked in a quiet voice. Derek, who was halfway down the stairs turned to look at him. “I can’t tell you that…but maybe in a few days she will…or not…” Derek told him with a smile. He turned to leave.
Dallas was confused as he entered his room. What exactly had he done to get the cold shoulder? What had Derek cleared up for him? Dallas lay in his bed pondering the questions, letting sleep find him.
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