Can’t Look Away

12: It’s Going To Be Stranger For You

“Sasha, can you help your brother?”

Sasha, who’d been staring down at her phone, whipped around at the sound of her mother’s voice, watching as the older woman bustled past, another plate of food balanced in her hand. “Huh?” she spluttered.

“Can you put that phone down for five seconds and help your brother with the decorations?” Carina replied “Your uncle texted a little while ago and told me he didn’t know how much longer he could stall your father, so I’d like to get this done before he walks through the door. Can you help James please?” she prodded, failing to keep the exasperation out of her voice.

It was deserved. Since Sasha had arrived almost two hours previous, she had spent a lot of her time busy with her phone, but she couldn’t seem to stop it. Lionel had started it with a playful text, reminding her that she could have been spending the evening with him instead, and Sasha had responded, leading to a string of texts that she rushed to reply to as soon as they arrived.

Offering her mother an apologetic smile, she tucked the phone into her pocket before she padded towards where her brother stood, trying, and failing, to hide the amused smirk he wore as he tacked a banner to the wall. Sasha rolled her eyes before she took the other end of the banner. “Don’t” she muttered.

“Don’t what?” James quipped innocently.

Sasha offered him a pointed look, causing James to chuckle before he shook his head. “At least you’re sort of helping” he mused “Who’s on the other end of those texts?” he prodded.

Sasha, who’d been trying to make sure that the banner was level, shrugged, hoping that the look on her face didn’t betray her. “No one for you to worry about” she replied.

James tilted his head, his eyes scrutinizing her for a moment before he nodded slowly. He wanted to prod her about it, but he knew better. If Sasha wanted to talk about something she would and she couldn’t be made to talk before she was ready. “Alright, I won’t ask again” he mused “But once mama’s out of prep mode for the party, she’ll realise what you’ve been doing all day and she will be all over it, so I would get ready for that” he added.

“You don’t want to run interference for me?” Sasha asked.

James let out a laugh. “And have her ask when I am going to propose to Ellie? No thank you” he replied.

Sasha huffed playfully, causing James to smile at her warmly. “You’ll be fine” he mused.

Sasha offered him a slightly dubious look before her phone buzzed in her pocket, causing her to look down at it briefly before she glanced up at James. James rolled his eyes. “Go” he noted “Everything is under control here” he added.

Sasha wrapped her arms around him briefly before she wandered away, already talking happily into the phone.

Placing her glass down onto a nearby table, Sasha rolled her eyes playfully before she tapped out another reply, sending it back to Lionel. She had put it away for a while. After her uncle had called to let her mother know that her father was on his way home, Sasha had put the phone away, wanting to celebrate with the older man, but with her parents distracted by hosting, her siblings distracted by their partners, and a room full of her parents’ friends, she had slipped into a corner, more than content to pass the time talking to Lionel about nothing than by forcing small talk with people she hadn’t seen in years.

Watching the screen of her phone, she waited for another message to pop up, only to be distracted by the sound of someone sitting down next to her. Reflexively, she locked her phone and turned it over in her lap before she looked up, her stare landing on Leila who’d dropped into the seat beside her. “What have you done with Olivier?” she asked.

Leila shrugged, sipping on her glass of wine. “I left him with James” she mused “They were talking about something I had no interest in, so I left them to it and thought I’d come and check in with you” she added, flashing her sister a small smile.

Sasha smiled back. “I’m fine” she mused.

“You’ve been pretty quiet” Leila pointed out.

“This has never been my idea of fun” Sasha replied “These are all mum and dad’s friends and you and James have been busy most of the night, but it’s been fine” she added, trying to stifle the urge to look down at the phone which vibrated in her lap.

Leila did look at it before she looked back up at her sister’s face. “Leo?” she prodded.

Sasha’s shrug confirmed nothing, but she knew that Leila saw through it. All of a sudden, there was a tension in her expression that caused Sasha to shift in her seat, her eyes dropping to the floor. “I like him, Leila” she admitted softly.

“I know you do” Leila replied “I’m your sister, Sasha. I can read you like a book” she added, a slight smile quirking up the corner of her mouth.

Sasha shook her head. “I’m trying to tell you that I am going to keep seeing him” she clarified “We've been seeing each other quite a bit, and I want to keep doing it” she added.

“You don’t need my permission, Sasha” Leila noted.

“I know” Sasha noted “I’m just giving you a heads up” she added.

“Of what?” Leila quipped “The fact that your next boyfriend has seen me naked? That I’ve seen him naked? It’s going to be far stranger for you than me, Sasha, we both know that” she added.

Sasha blinked a couple of times, causing Leila to let out a soft sigh before she leant over, squeezing her sister’s hand gently. “Sorry” she murmured “I just...I want you to think about it, OK? I want you to be sure that you want this before you commit to him” she added.

Sasha looked down at their hands, but before she could reply, her mother’s voice carried over the crowd, calling the two of them towards her so that they could sing happy birthday to their father. Leila tugged her hand back, offering Sasha a soft smile, before she walked away, leaving Sasha behind for a moment. Turning her eyes to her phone, she stared at it for a few beats before she trailed after Leila, standing by her side as they sung. Occasionally, she glanced at her older sister, wondering if there was something about her relationship with Lionel that she was missing.
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Thanks to Twisted;;Symphony for the comment :)