chapter twenty-nine

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"What are you looking at?"

Ben tilted his head downwards and squinted at my phone, where a text from Jeffrey flashed across the screen. We were sitting next to each other on the plane again, and while I had prepared myself to calm him down before we departed, Ben's demeanor was the exact opposite of nervous. He had taken to annoying me in every way possible, which included peering at my phone, leaning his head against my shoulder periodically, and cracking jokes that wouldn't have been funny even in the sixth grade.

"I think you can see," I mumbled, and he muttered an "oh" at Jeffrey's name. He said nothing further, as we technically had worked out the Jeffrey problem. I was going to meet up with him and finally figure out why I had been dumped.

Somehow "dumped" became less bitter of a verb each time I glanced at Ben.

Instead of pestering me again, he asked something somewhat important. "Have you figured out what's up with Eric and Leila?" His eyes were trained on his brother holding Ella in his lap.

I nodded. "Have you? Or would you prefer to talk to Eric yourself?"

He slouched a little in the uncomfortable plane seat. "I've sorta figured out it has something to do with kids."

"You're right," I replied, watching my sister gaze wistfully at the family a couple rows ahead of us with adorable twin boys. "Leila really wants another baby, but Eric is pretty indifferent about it, and it's not settling well with her."

"Shouldn't it be more of her choice though?"

"Yeah, that's true, but I don't think nature is exactly agreeing."

"I see," he nodded and let out a small sigh, but then joked, "Well, if it doesn't work out, Ella needs as much attention as two kids anyway."

The plane ended up taking off during our conversation, but neither of us acknowledged it. That was a stark difference from two weeks ago, where Ben had held onto my hand for dear life. In quite the opposite situation, I found my head slowly gravitating to his shoulder, and my hands curling up into his chest. He made a comfortable pillow, so I snuggled up even further against him and closed my eyes.

The next time they opened, Ben was shaking my shoulder lightly and coaxing me out of a deep nap. I winced as I lifted myself off him, realizing half of my body had been draped over him for the entire three-hour plane ride. He cleared his throat.

"How do I say this..." he began, fighting a smirk. "You snore."

"I do not," I retorted, smoothing down my hair and fiddling with my seatbelt buckle. "I absolutely do not snore. You're lying."

"You also drooled a little," he added and pointed to an imaginary stain on his blue shirt. I narrowed my eyes even further. "Oh, and you also were mumbling about how much you love me in your sleep."

"Alright, now you're pushing the limit, Benjamin," I warned and stood up. "I guess I should tell you on the last plane ride you used my chest as a makeshift teddy bear."

"Well, you do have great boobs," he remarked, wiggling his eyebrows. I slapped my forehead as the elderly woman in front of us turned around and sent us a disapproving look. Ben gave her a fake smile in return.

After having enjoyed the beginning of winter in warm weather, we had all but forgotten what was waiting for us when we exited the airport doors.

"Ah, exactly how I remembered it: Hell frozen over," my dad wryly remarked as we headed to the parking garage. Around a foot and a half of snow had fallen from the time we had left to now, and the asphalt was paved in a thin layer of ice. The temperature was hovering somewhere in the early teens, and it was past the point of seeing my breath condense into the air in a smoke-like puff. I could hardly breathe in the bitter wind that cut through the dark of the early evening.

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