Chapter Seventeen: Give Me a Break (Austin's POV)

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We're laughing and drinking coffee and having a merry old time when we hear a noise from upstairs.

"Shit, what's he doing up there?" my father grumbles. I smile, remembering him saying the same thing when I used to play my drums upstairs.

"Oh! I thought they'd gone to bed. They should come down to meet Aria," my mother says.

Inwardly, I groan. I love my siblings, but their pubescent angstiness is just a bit too much to handle.

"Josh! Jessica! Get thy butts down here!" my father yells.

This time, I groan outwardly. "Dad, can you keep your nerd in until my girlfriend leaves?"

"Aye, aye."

I roll my eyes, feeling like I'm fourteen again. I turn to Aria, whose lips are pursed so hard that she looks like a fish. She's trying so hard not to laugh that her face is practically purple.

Two pairs of feet come pounding the steps. My younger brother and sister are identical twins. They both have my wavy brown hair. But that's where our similarities end. They have dark brown eyes and tan skin, sort of like my mom's. And Aria. Huh.

My brother stomps sulkily into the kitchen, with my sister close on his heels. "What-" He's about to complain, but stops short when he sees Aria. Looking her up and down, he mouths, "How did you get with that?"

I covertly give him the finger when my parents aren't looking. My brother and I have always been like ninjas, pulling out our swords when our parents aren't looking. Some things never change.

Or some people. Grow up, idiot.

"Aria," my mother says, placing a hand on my siblings' shoulders, "this is Josh and Jessica."

Aria shakes hands with each of my siblings.

Immediately, Jessica bursts out, "Oh my gosh, I love your hair! You have to give me hair care tips!"

I smile. Jessica always been the odd one out, the one girly, exuberant personality in a family of even tempers.

Aria looks at me, as if to say, Are you sure you two are related?

"Tell you what. When's your birthday? For a birthday present, I'll take you to my salon and buy you all the products I use," Aria says, much to my sister's delight.

"Really?" she squeals.

"Yes."

Jessica gives me a thumbs-up. "Good choice, Austin."

I laugh and wrap an arm around Aria's waist. We stay for a little while longer, then say our goodbyes and slip out.

We're walking down a block slick with ice.

"I'm pretty sure my family wants to marry you," I say.

She laughs and pecks me on the cheek. We continue to walk, then hit a particularly slick spot. That's when I go down.

I fall with a resounding crack. Aria rushes over, her eyes panicked.

"Austin, are you okay? Can you move it?"

I try to move my arm, but instead a loud groan escapes my lips.  

"Oh my God. Okay, I'm calling an ambulance."

She dials 911 and answers some questions in quick, nervous bursts.

"Okay, hang in there, sweetie. An ambulance is on its way. Just calm down, relax. Okay? Shh.. calm....calm."

The ambulance comes and I'm taken to the nearest hospital, where I undergo an X-ray and other unpleasant tests. Eventually, it's determined that I fractured my elbow and will have to wear a cast for at least the next month. Which means no work for the next month. Which means ramen and cheap takeout for the next month. Yay.

When my arm's casted and in a sling, I turn to Aria.

"Okay, Ms. Chef, you're going to have to put your culinary skills to use. I won't be able to cook for the next month."

 She smiles. "I'd be happy to. But I'll need something from you."

"What?"

She takes a deep breath. " I need you to help me find my father."

A/N: Sorry this chapter's kinda short. I wrote  it in an app on my Kindle, so it was kinda hard to tell how long it is. But I think I packed a lot in for such a short chapter. 

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