"Oh, look, Amber, there are a bunch here."
I follow Dad to the biggest tree in the orchard.
"Here. Climb this ladder," Dad gestures to the ladder by the tree and I begin climbing it, basket in hand.
I start plucking off the ripest strawberries and dropping them into the basket.
"You think this is enough?" I ask after a while as Dad is busy plucking strawberries off the tree across from me. I show him my basket.
"Sounds good. You wanna go? I was thinking we could go barbecuing," Dad offers.
I climb down the ladder as quickly as possible and give him a hug. "Barbecuing? Dad, you're the best," I say.
I pull away and smile at him. "Except Jessica is going to come with us."
My smile quickly fades away. "Jessica?"
"Honey, I'm sorry. I knew this was going to be just us, but she's alone at home. Her nephew's coming, too."
I break. "Thanks Dad," I mutter before turning and walking away.
"Amber! Amber, come on. It's gonna be so much fun. You guys can get to know each other," Dad comes in front of me.
"Chris was going to come, too, but then I realized you didn't like him too much, so it's just her and her nephew."
"Chris seems to be the only person I want to talk to right now, anyway!" I yell and stomp past him.
Did I really just say that? It's true, though, isn't it? He didn't seem to be mean to me at all today. He was acting like a true friend.
Dad and Jessica and Chase and Andrew can go rot.
* * *
Two hours later, I'm sitting on a bench with my head in my hands, staring down at the wooden table.
Dad and Jessica are busy with the barbecue and Chris and Brody (turns out he's the fairly handsome nephew my age) are busy having a game of basketball at the courts. They invited me to play, but I declined. Having other people on my day out with Dad is not want I wanted.
"Oh, look, Amber, the first cooked chicken. It's crispy too, your favorite," Dad says off to my right.
"Chase's favorite," I murmur too low for him to hear me.
He places the plate down in front of me and walks away. Just like that.
"I think I'm gonna go play with them," I say, standing up and walking off to the courts.
"Hey, Teddy Bear! Decided you wanna play with me?" Chris asks as I walk across the court to where they're arguing about if Brody got a fowl or not.
"No, I decided I don't wanna eat their food," I say, folding my arms.
"Good. You shouldn't. My mom stinks at barbecue."
My dad rocks.
"So, whaddya say, two on one, me verses you two lovers?" Brody asks.
"Shaddup, bro." Chris grins and punches Brody in the arm.
Why is he grinning?
"Me verses you two," Chris decides.
"I don't wanna play a real game," I mutter.
"Then what do you want to do?" Brody asks.
I appreciate the fact they're trying to cheer me up. They know I just wanted to be with my dad alone. Well not anymore, anyways.
Then I realize something that I should've realized long ago.
"Aren't you supposed to be at the water park?" I ask Brody.
"No...?" he says.
I roll my eyes. "I know you invited Alex already. Aren't you supposed to be going?"
"Oh, that! Yeah, she said she had some family business, something about her dad. So she couldn't come."
Why hasn't she texted me yet? And if Alex is talking about her dad, she'll hate him more for ruining her day out with Brody.
"But weren't you supposed to be going to the water park anyway?"
His cheeks turn pink. "I had plans, too."
"Plans to come here and play basketball?" I feel a smirk coming on.
"Ok, whatever, I just invited her so we go together. God," he mutters, turning away.
"Awww! That's sweet! I have to tell her!"
"No!" Brody whips around and barks. I jump back.
"Oooooh, Brody's in loooove," Chris teases, pointing at Brody with both index fingers.
"Shaddup!" Brody yells, pushing Chris away from him.
"Brody and Alex, sitting in a tr-" Chris begins to sing like a kid, which makes me bite my lip to keep from laughing.