My parents own and run the Vandergard company, which specializes in the development of medicines and other areas of medical research. They're loaded so Ben pays for the house me and Leo are living in. We don't really need to work, but she works as a bartender in the evenings and I have a few different 'part-time jobs' so we can make our own money.
Working with Gwyn is one of them, they do try to pay us a little for our patrols since the local businesses do pay him, but no one really asks for much, especially the younger members like me. However they also run a kind of underground fighting event they let anyone join, even people from rival gangs. There are entry fees for participants along with betting for spectators. I've taken part in these for about a year-and-a-half.
When I was younger Ben had me take mixed martial arts classes for self-defense because he was worried that his uncle might try to attack us in some way once he found out we were trying to take everything back. Then once I was a little older, I took boxing lessons after school. That was my choice, mostly to avoid my mom. I'm a damn good fighter, and I've won every time I've entered. I get the prize money which is comprised of all the entry fees, and Gwen usually gives me a small part of the betting profits since no one ever thinks that a kid my age could beat those guys. I get a little beat up sometimes and Leo gets pretty upset, but I've saved up a lot and I only broke my nose once.
For other jobs, sometimes I help clean up at the bar, sometimes I deliver newspapers, I shovel snow in the winter, and mow lawns in the summer, but my favorite job is when Anna lets me help in the cafe.
She teaches me all sorts of stuff about baking. I love cooking. I cook for Leo all the time and I like to think I've gotten pretty good. I even got them to let me help in the bar kitchen recently. It's wonderful, but my favorite thing to make is cute pastries. Multicolored and flavored macarons and cream puffs, strawberry shortcake, colorful cake rolls, and anything I can make look like a cat. Anna and I even learned how to make rose apple tarts together recently.
I help Leo with the housework and we maintain a small garden. I do well keeping up with my schoolwork and my grades are pretty high. I don't really have many friends though. I have piercings, dye my hair, come in with injuries, and I even carry a cricket bat around in my duffel bag. There is a rumor that I'm in a gang, which I am, but they all just think it's a rumor. Unfortunately they all still think I'm terrifying so no one talks to me, even some of the teachers think I'm scary. I've always had a pretty harsh face though and the broken nose really didn't help.
"When are you going to decide where to go to university?" Entrance exams will be here before you know it." Leo asked me one night as we washed dishes together.
"Oh, I don't know. I'm still not sure what I want to do, but I'll figure all that out soon. You don't need to worry." I tried to brush off the question but she never really bought that stuff.
"Are you scared?"
"Of what? I need to go to pick a stable career, right?"
"Of meeting them while you're there. That they'll be the way Tammy always dreams about." I guess I am now that I think about it. My mom always thought of my soulmate as a sassy uni girl, so I guess that fear has been sitting in the back of my mind.
"Well you know about all that research at Ben's company? They're saying all kinds of stuff about words, like that they are about 90% sure that when you get them is an equal distance from age 14 or 15. So your soulmate probably wouldn't be in University anymore right? They would be between 26 and 28. So-" She pauses and puts down what she was doing to turn and look at me.
"No you are not allowed." Not allowed to what? I thought. Go to school? Isn't that what she was just trying to get me to do?
"There is no way I'm letting you date, live with, love, or do whatever soulmates do with someone my age, that's crazy. You are way too young for an age gap like that, it's ridiculous and Ben would never be okay with something like that either."
"Wait wait wait. You're saying you don't approve of my soulmate even though we haven't met them just because they might be a bit older than me!?" I was annoyed. I want to meet them so badly. I want them to be the opposite of everything my mother has ever wanted. I want to love them and take care of them no matter how old they are. Everything I've been doing is so that I can take care of them.
"Jay, you're just a kid, you can't be with someone nearly 10 years older than you, that's insane. I can't believe Ben hasn't thought about this. I need to call him." Leo dried off her hands and walked over to pick up her phone.
"Why not? Who cares how old they are, and I'm certainly not a kid anymore. I can take care of myself. If we're supposed to be together, who the hell are you and Ben to stop us?!" I was getting angrier and began to raise my voice I was losing control of my temper and not thinking quite straight.
"Jay, just go do your homework, Ben and I will discuss this and figure out what to do.
"No. You two can't just control my life!"
"Don't raise your voice at me. Go to your room."
"You are not in any position to tell me what to do."
"What the fuck does that mean?" Her voice was low as she approached me and we were now standing far too close to each other.
"I'm here for you. You would be a mess without me. You can't keep me from him just because you can't have her!" Leo slammed her fist into the wall right next to my head. From the phone in her hand, I could hear Ben, very confused, asking what that noise was and what was going on. I turned around to go to my room throw some of my things into a bag and went back out to the entryway.
"I'm going out." I said with my hand already on the knob. Then I slammed the door behind me. I shouldn't have said those things, but that doesn't mean I don't believe them. I don't want to hurt her. I want to take care of her like I promised Ben.
Before I knew it I was at Gwyn's place. I hesitated before knocking on the door.
He came out in only a pair of sweatpants, so I could see some of the scars on his abdomen.
"Jay? What the hell are you doing here so late?" His voice was pleasantly deep and held a touch of concern.
"I had a fight with Leo, is it okay if I crash here?"
"Yeah, of course, come in. I'll go grab you a pillow and some blankets." He held the door open as I came in and then closed it behind me. I walked over to the couch and set my bag on the coffee table. I felt my phone start vibrating in my pocket. I checked it even though I knew it would be Ben, and quickly denied the call. Then just turned my phone off. Gwyn came back out and tossed everything on the sofa when he stopped to look at me. He tilted his head. I looked back at him with confusion, which only got worse when he reached out and rubbed my head.
"You still have product in your hair. You should wash that out before you go to sleep. Feel free to use the bath.
"But I didn't bring any-"
"Don't worry about small stuff like that, kid, you can use anything you need in there, okay?"
"Oh, uh, yeah, thanks."
"Do you need to borrow any clothes?"
"No no, I'm good, I did bring those. Plus I'm sure nothing of yours would fit me." We laughed together. I wasn't very small, but Gwyn, he was huge.
"Bet they'd look good on you though." He winked and I was thrown a bit off guard but didn't have much time to process it before he turned around to leave.
"Well I'm going to bed a while. Don't stay up too late." He called back with one arm up in a casual wave. Then he stopped in the doorway to his bedroom and turned to me again. "You can stay here as long as you need. Good night." He disappeared and closed his door before I had any chance to respond.
I just quickly got my bath, changed and fell asleep on the couch. I was up early and started making breakfast to thank Gwyn for helping me out. I was nearly done when he came walking out, still only half-dressed, but a lot groggier than last night.
"What's all this?" He asked, looking at all the food.
"I figured I'd make it to say thank you again. I don't really have any friends to go to when stuff like this happens, so I'm glad you're willing to put up with me."
"Aw, kid, you didn't have to do all this. You're welcome here anytime. I take care of my guys." He sat down at the table and I brought over a cup of coffee as I was finishing the eggs. "This looks amazing."
"It's not much." I felt my face heat up a little at the compliment. I was so used to Leo's reactions that they didn't really phase me anymore, but I rarely ever get to cook for anyone else. It felt nice to be acknowledged. I joined him at the table with the last plate of food and we started to build our plates together.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Gwyn's question surprised me, but I couldn't help laughing when I saw that he had half a sausage link sticking out of his mouth.
"Thanks Gwyn, but not really. It's just too related to a lot of shit from the past. It would be way too much to explain, and I mean it's really not that big of a deal. Leo and I just don't really fight often, so even little stuff seems like a big deal I guess. Thanks though, I really appreciate it."
I ended up staying at Gwen's place for about 2 weeks. I would go home to get anything I needed when I knew Leo would be at work. I left a note each time. They just said, I'm alive. I'm fine. Don't bother contacting me. Gwyn didn't have a guest room, but he did have another couch in the room he used as an office. So I started staying in there. It turns out that Gwyn kind of likes to 'collect' partners, so it was easier for me to stay out of the way from in the office than the living room. It was pretty shocking at first but it's his home and it didn't really bother me much when he had someone over nearly every other day. I was just a little surprised when I realized that he would bring men and women back, but I guess that's something pretty much everyone knows about him since he didn't care to hide it. A lot of the time they left before I got up, but sometimes they would stay and have breakfast with us. It was always interesting to see how they would react. Most of the time they were confused and or curious as to why I was there since they didn't notice me the night before, but a few of them just went with it. They were completely unfazed by my being there. All of them were pleasant though, we had nice conversations at the table and they were always very kind to me and complimented my cooking.
One morning when we didn't have a guest I decided to tell Gwyn that I thought it was about time I go home and patch things up.
"Are you sure? You can stay here as long as you need to."
"Yeah, I'm just getting way too worried about Leo." I cleared the table and cleaned up a bit after we finished and went back to the office to change and grab all my stuff. Gwyn walked me out the front door and I stopped to turn to him. "I can't thank you enough Gwyn. You really saved me with this."
"Don't mention it, kid, just promise you make me some of those great meals every now and then."
"Oh, yeah, totally. Just let me know when you're gonna swing by the bar. They let me cook back there now."
"Yeah, bye then. Thanks again." I was about to turn to leave when he stopped me.
"Jay." He grabbed my head near my ears and pulled me in to kiss the top of my head. Then he looked me in the eyes as he gently rubbed my temples with his thumbs. "I'm here for you anytime you need me. Don't forget that."
I could feel myself start to blush as I nodded. Then he let me go and I took off back home.
When I got back, not seconds after I walked in the door, Leo ran up and nearly knocked me over as she hugged me. We held each other for a while and didn't say anything. Things went back to normal because we just silently decided not to talk about. There was no reason, we just tried to trust each other since we knew discussing it would probably end in another fight.
It was nice to be back. I really missed her.