AA-meetings – Chapter 4: Ambitious Friends

Ambitious friends

2009


The house is abandoned. Even Eli is not hiding in his dungeon as usual. Alex and David carefully roam around the place, listening to the nothingness, moving so very slowly that their shoes won’t even squeak. A situation like this barely ever happens, simply because there’s always someone here. Too many people live in this house.

“Do you hear that?” David whispers, almost unnoticeable.

He holds out his hand to make her stop moving.

Alex just nods, because – yes – she does hear it: the deafening sound of loneliness. They face each other and start laughing out loud. An exuberant Alex jumps on top of the leather couch and starts dancing like crazy.

“I never expected I’d say this, but … I feel like reading a book. Or taking a nap. Or – I don’t know. I feel weirdly uncomfortable in silent situations.”

David mocks her words and pulls her down on her ass again as he’s taking a seat next to her.

“You don’t read books,” he reminds her. “And you are the cause of most silent situations.”

She kicks him, like cousins are supposed to do. The silence gets disturbed, though, once her phone starts beeping.

“It’s Amy?” David curiously informs.

His annoyed cousin looks up to him and frowns: “Fuck you. I do have other friends than Amy, you know.”

An apologetic expression appears on his face, but it turns into confusion the second she starts smiling viciously.

“No, you’re right: it’s Amy,” she admits.

Some seconds pass where she texts her best friend back and he just sits there, staring at the decorative paintings and flowers in the room. He clears his throat in an attempt to gather some courage and turns his head hesitantly. This is the moment, that perfect moment to ask if maybe, just maybe, Amy has said something about him – if she might be interested. But Alex drops her phone with a deep sigh and faces him with a weird expression. Her nose is curled up, her eyes squint. She looks like she’s about to sneeze. It freaks him out a bit.

“I kissed Amy yesterday. Or she kissed me. I’m not sure,” she blurts out.

David’s eyes widen with confusion and it feels like someone’s slapping him across the face. Except Alex’s not moving an inch and there’s absolutely nobody around.

“What?” he finally stutters, hoping he misheard whatever she just said.

Maybe it was kicked. Or whipped. Please, not kissed. But Alex readjusts her position in the couch; she turns her entire body his way and drops her head, allowing her confusion to be seen.

“We kissed. It was super weird … except, it wasn’t.”

When she levels his eyes again, he notices something. It might be the exact same thing drenching his eyes when he looks at Amy himself. She’s not joking, he gathers. Not even a little bit. The heart inside of him, beating only faster when that gorgeous blonde is around, abruptly stops and it takes a firm swallow before he can gather his thoughts.

“So, just to get things clear: I’ve been chasing Amy like a love fool puppy for years now and you just randomly throw it out here that you’ve been kissing her. Like, girl to girl. Instead of me?”

She puts her hands in front of her mouth, like she’s genuinely surprised: “You want me to kiss you?”

His hand pokes her shoulder and he softly smiles. But Alex knows exactly how he’s feeling about her best friend. That’s why he’s the first one she told.

“Sorry. It’s just … how it went. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

His head goes up and down, processing the whole thing. Though, in all fairness, even Alex can’t decide what to make of it. What are they, ambitious friends, curious teenagers? She lowers her head once more and plays around with her fingers, displaying the difficulty to talk about it in such an honest way.

“I don’t know what it means. I guess she liked it, but maybe it’s just a best friend’s thing. All I know is that I could want to maybe do it again.”

“That’s a lot of different maybes,” David remarks.

It are, but that doesn’t matter to her.

“Fuck. I don’t want to lose my best friend. But I can’t stop thinking about her and I don’t know if that’s normal for two girls who are together all the time.”

That deafening silence returns. They sit through it, until the eldest of the two stretches his arms and shrugs.

“So. I’ll stop trying to kiss her then?” David proposes, in a way to offer her the space to figure it all out.

She puts her hands on top of his and kisses his left cheek. He’s such a great guy. A great guy that deserves an amazing girlfriend. But Alex wouldn’t survive her cousin/male best friend chasing her soulmate right this minute. Not that he ever once made a move to kiss Amy, though. Such a scaredy-cat. He barely ever flirts with her.

“For now, I’d appreciate that,” she says, restraining everything inside of her wanting to ridicule his comment.

They decide to organize a small Playstation contest. Shooting terrorists might cheer David up a bit. It keeps them entertained for an hour, until she throws her arms up and declares herself the Queen of murdering everyone.

“You killed three innocent citizens,” he objects.

She just shrugs and walks over to the kitchen, only to return with two big glasses of soda a minute later.

“So. I’ve been thinking about the Amy thing,” David says. “In other words, you’re cock blocking me.”

She shakes her head and hands him one of the glasses.

“I’m clam jamming,” she proudly announces. “But don’t it make you feel less inadequate.”

As the words come rolling from her tongue, she starts wandering around her own mind. Is she in love with her best friend? How is she supposed to know? She has been feeling this warm, loving, protecting, all-consuming feeling for that gorgeous blonde ever since they met. They were just kids back then, but now, years later, those fundamental basics have remained the same. So how is she supposed to tell love apart from the familiar stomach race of butterflies that have always appeared whenever Amy walked by or stared deep into her eyes? There is no manual, there are no guidelines, no direction on how to handle this situation. Their friendship has always been the most normal thing she knew, even now, after what happened last night. Maybe it is just as normal that she wants to kiss Amy’s lips sometimes or that she wants to hold her just a little bit longer after a hug comes to its ending. Maybe they are too entwined to tell the amorous perception apart.


“Want to try my gin cocktail? Made it myself.”

The curly-haired boy puts down a tray of deliciousnesses with a high level of pride. Of course he went into his dad’s liquor cabinet the minute they organized a night at home. Amy, who recently joined the rather loud celebration of silence, is the first one to grab a potential life ruiner. David’s passionate about food and drinks. He started blogging about it a year ago and his tribute Do it with Food has gathered a loyal fan base in a short amount of time. Alex patiently awaits the reaction, using her phone to film it. She’s one hundred percent certain that Amy won’t like it and David’s charming effort will flop once again: she doesn’t like bitter things, she’s more the vodka loving girl. It takes one count before the disgusted face of her friend proves her right. Poor David, he never catches a break with this one. Unlike Alex, who can never do anything wrong.

“That’s disgusting. This tastes like red,” Amy croaks while sticking out her tongue.

David, all disappointed in letting his crush down, looks confused: “Red is not a taste. It’s a color.”

But Amy insists: “Yesterday, I chewed on a pen. A red pen. It burst and exploded in my mouth. It looked like my periods came out of my mouth.”

Alex eyes suddenly burst from laughing tears. She falls back into the thick pillows of the couch and buries her hysterical head in the piece of fabric, while the other duo amusingly observes her. Her filming skills are terrible. Right now, the lens is aimed at the ground.

“That’s fucking disgusting,” she utters, gasping for a breeze of air, while regaining control over the little video she’s making.

Amy turns her head to a baffled David and shrugs innocently: “Well, so is pen ink … and this gin.”

He picks up the tray with the face of a defeated man and returns to the kitchen for a new experiment. Echoing through the space is still Alex’s ecstatic laughter. Amy crawls on top of her and shuts her up by cupping her mouth. That’s when recording stops and the phone gets tossed aside.

“Okay, I get it: it was funny. I said a stupid thing.”

A muffled Alex smiles in her hand and quickly fights her way from underneath her best friend, until she’s on top of the surprised blonde.

“Down, Bessie,” she snorts, using a Mulan quote.

Unlike David, who’s always rolling his eyes whenever they exchange their inside jokes, Amy loves it when her friend does that. They giggle, they struggle, they suddenly stare each other deep into the eyes. That makes them freeze immediately, forgetting about the place and time they are in. There’s a recurring tension rising around them, as their heads are way closer than supposed to be. Amy softly smiles at her gorgeous other half and uses her index finger to clear the falling strokes of hair from Alex’s face to tug them behind her ear. How come she’s only now figuring out how drop dead gorgeous her best friend is? How the entire room lights up when she laughs and her eyes sparkle like priceless diamonds. All her nerves go in overdrive, as she tries to memorize Alex’s dark-toned skin rubbing against hers. There’s butterflies in her stomach. She likes it.

“Do you remember what happened last night?” she bluntly asks, piercing her green eyes into those brown Latina ones.

Their terrifyingly close bond allows them to speak their mind freely about the incident. A nervous Alex silently moves her head up and down. Suddenly, she can’t refrain from looking at Amy’s lips. They tasted great last night. Bet they’d taste great again today.

“I mean, we kissed,” the blonde continues. “It was fun. I happen to like kissing, so it’s not that I’d mind doing it again. It’s just – you know. It all depends if you … like to kiss too.”

Her rambling is dead-cute. In any other situation, Alex would remain calm and preserved, casually shrugging and silently admitting she might. Not now. Before Amy’s words have fully left her mouth, she intercepts: “I do.”

Fuck. With a raging fierceness, Amy dives in to kiss her best friend again. Her lips press themselves on Alex’s and there’s absolutely no rejection. In fact, the suddenly explosion of spontaneity is being appreciated. Alex wraps her arms around her best friend and drops the entire weight of her body as well. They feel as one, so close to each other, while their lips are moving intensely. It all doesn’t seem so weird as it should be. The kissing is nice – the gentle, subtle touching is nice. They softly discover each other’s smooching habits while giggling every once in a while. Alex catches a breath as a self-assured Amy suddenly replaces her lips to the collarbone of her opponent. This feels way too good. This stopped being kissing and turned into fooling around. An arousing feeling fires up her lower stomach. It’s wanting, loving – it’s overwhelming. It’s sexual.

Alex pants, as her mind can’t seem to organize its thoughts, even after persistent trying. The touch of Amy does that to her. Why? They are just friends. Maybe they’re lonely, desperate for company. And since they spend every waking moment together, this is the logical step. They have seen each other’s bodies countless times, naked even. It never meant anything, it never made them curious. Now even thinking about the next shower they’ll take together after practice makes them edgy.

Alex’s hands are slowly moving up. They are eager to make their way over to her bra. Man, wouldn’t she love to touch her boobs. Just once, out of curiosity. But noises come intruding from the kitchen and before another hasted heartbeat has passed, the two of them sit up straight, pulling down their shirts. David enters the room with another plate, not noticing how messed up both girls’ faces and hair are.

“Does anybody want a smoothie?” he asks, hoping this will be a winner for once.

Amy and Alex nod in a formal way and they each take a glass. Right before they put the straw in their mouths, they both secretly start smiling.


School’s out. Another perfectly wasted day learning unnecessary things. The football court is deserted, except for four people. It’s Eli, David, Alex and Amy, staring at the distance. This day has been a sad one: it’s the anniversary of Alex’s mom death. Sixteen years now. At the same time, it’s her birthday. That never really excites her, though, for obvious reasons. And as fate decided to make this day even worse, Alex got up with a small infection under her arm this morning from shaving. Therefor, she was forced to leave her perfect sleeveless birthday outfit at home and go for a less favorable option. She was late at school because of the hesitating nature of Eli, broke a nail in the car due to fidgeting and almost got ran over by a fellow-student. To say the least, it hasn’t been her favorite day. Still, Amy has given her a beautiful, engraved bracelet, and she edited a special friendship tribute on a memory stick. The best present happened in between classes, in the bathroom, right after Amy realized her best friend was being sadder than ever. Sixteen was a big deal, you see. Getting your driver’s license, claiming responsibility for something you were not ready for, growing toward adulthood. Secretly, she missed having a mom to share that with. And so Amy held Alex’s head in her hands and kissed her softly on the mouth, until her best friend’s lips started trembling.

“Happy birthday,” she whispered in the sexiest voice the Latina had ever heard.

The only word she could come up with was ‘fuck’.

As a surprise, Eli has smuggled some tiny bottles of tequila to the court. Nobody ever really asks how, but he always finds a way to get to the illegal stuff. As long as it’s alcohol, nobody minds.

“Oh, God, that is terrible! Give me another one!” Alex shouts, as her entire face transforms into a model poster for disgust.

The sun is starting to set and every single one of the teenagers has another shot. They all wonder out loud why adults like drinking this shit so much. It’s not even tasty. Time passes, and Alex slowly starts to embrace the joy one’s supposed to experience on a birthday. Weirdly enough, at home, the men have always celebrated her special day with a big amount of festivity. George’s wife certainly isn’t forgotten, but they choose to remember the day of her funeral to be sad and depressed about, rather than ruining little Alex’s birthday. Still, that doesn’t stop his daughter from mourning each and every time she gets to add another number to her life.

Amy slips her hand in hers and rises a smile. Even if she’d try and resist, Alex would still fail at stopping the ends of her lips from dreamingly curling up. Her body crawls up against her best friend, while holding on to her, and the two guy, located in front of them, start laughing about the most stupid things they have done while drinking. Eli doesn’t get very far. The only thing he ever does is sit in his room, playing video games, and whether he drinks or not, that never changes.

“One time I fell down the stairs and I broke my left arm,” David proudly announces.

Alex’s left eyebrow curls up; how is that a thing to be so eager to talk about? But Amy, affected by the buzz of drinking, scoffs out loud and interferes.

“Oh, yeah? One time I fell down the stairs and I broke my arm and my leg.”

Alex nods. She was there to pick her up and call her parents. What a fun/awkward night that was at the hospital. But Alex is nothing if not competitive, so she shrugs, waves at the two braggers and points at herself a second later.

“Well,” she grins self-confidently, “one time I fell down the stairs and the stairs broke. Walked out of there unharmed.”

The three friends start laughing out loud and for a second, even Alex forgets about the tragedy that hides behind her birthday.

They all just enjoy the age of sixteen and the fact that the biggest worries in their life are just small details in comparison to what life’s got in store for them. A private interaction between the girls, where they go through each other’s hair to perfect the style, follows a brief moment of staring into each other’s eyes. The brothers start fighting in a playful way to keep them entertained and end up running after each other on the deserted football field. It’s getting dark by now, and the girls realize that they’ll have to go home soon. That’s when spontaneously Amy bends her head closer to Alex again. Their lips meet and that stops both of their hearts. This feeling is growing stronger for both of them. And somehow, they don’t want it to stop. It’s a short peck, but enough to stir up a turmoil of emotions. Alex’s breathing is shaky.

“Would you sleep with me?” Amy suddenly asks, a minute after the kiss broke off and her head is positioned on Alex’s shoulder.

“What?” the gorgeous Latina coughs, while spitting out the tequila she just had taken a sip of.

“Would you sleep with me …” Amy clarifies, while sitting up straight and looking at her.

Yes!” Alex proclaims, rather enthusiastically, with eyes wide open.

It scares her how much she has subconsciously has thought about it.

But Amy’s not done yet: “… if you were Jamie Henderson?”

She’s hinting at the football player that threw the party the other day. Ever since they attended the fun night out at his house, the guy’s been paying a lot of attention to the blonde goddess. Alex’s not pleased about it. It shows.

“Oh, uh, I mean, yeah – I guess so,” a startled Alex corrects herself.

Fuck. She frowns confused about the situation and turns her head the other way to calm herself down. Something tells her she’s being stupid. Of course Amy would be talking about a guy.

“Because he’s a boy,” Amy begins to explain. “And they have a lot of hormones.”

Her friend does not want to hear about this. She picturing his murder already.

“So that’s probably why he’s so interested in me, right? But I don’t want to sleep with him.”

Suddenly, two dark brown eyes flare up at her. It’s obvious how ecstatic Alex is about the amount of rejection that crawled from underneath Amy’s words.

“Take me home,” she begs, hoping Amy will spend the night. “Stay with me for my birthday.”

She’s dying to fall asleep in her arms tonight. Her warmth, her smell, it’s addictive. The feeling is mutual.

Amy raises a suggestive eyebrow: “Your place or mine?”

“Wherever you’re going,” Alex romantically whispers unintentionally.

In the background, the boys are rolling over each other now, squealing like girls. They don’t mind the others, having an intimate moment. Their bodies are relaxed and mesmerized. Minutes pass where they stare into each other’s adoring eyes. Are they falling in love? Or do all best friends feel like this around this age? This has nothing to do with them being girls. This is about boundaries; the perception of a best friend relationship or an actual relationship.

Alex takes out her phone and starts taking pictures of that gorgeous girl next to her. When Amy kisses her on the cheek, she snaps one of the tender moment.

When the boys are done playing and suggest to attend the family birthday dinner at home, all of them gather around the car, parked at the school’s parking lot. Alex suddenly feels herself heating up, but this time, Amy has nothing to do with it. It seems like she’s starting to get sick or something.  Everyone will be al cheerful and happy. She’s not up for that. The silence of the guest of honor strikes an attentive Amy. She pokes her shoulder just as she’s about to open the car door.

“Are you okay?”

Weirdly, Alex isn’t thinking about her mother anymore. One look at her and she’s stuck in the memory of Amy kissing her. A soft smile appears and unaffected by the presence of her cousins, she puts her arms around her soulmate to pull her in for a tight, intimate embrace.

“I’m fine. I’m just exceptionally tired and slightly drunk and I want to make out with you all night long,” she whispers in her ear, using a sexy voice.

Chills run up and down the blonde’s spine and a nervous feeling sneaks in. Something tells her that she going to have to learn how to contain herself on a whole new level tonight.


Three days after her sixteenth birthday, Alex’s dream comes true. Her first official gig as a professional model is happening, at sixteen. The regional campaign for L’Oréal that Rick Spencer hired her for will be getting launched any minute now. A couple of discovering, warm-up photoshoots have prepared her for this big breakthrough. In a couple of weeks, Alex’s face will be all over town. Presumably, that amount of pressure woke her up drenched in sweat this morning. She jumped straight up, disgusted of how wet the sheets underneath her body were. Then, she did a hundred sit-ups. In fact, she had spent every waking hours of the last couple of days in the gym, working out, toning her ass, pumping her arm muscles, losing some inches around her waist. Amy went along, but instead of following Alex’s lead, she brought books and homework to go through. She’s the marvelous student Alex never would be and that’s okay. To each their own, they say …

The studio they’re at is crowded with professionals and curious business men. Rick Spencer’s there to guide a nervous Alex through her first, big photoshoot. After three hours of sitting in a makeup chair waiting for the light technicians and all sort of assistants, her name reverberates through the room. Amy, patiently going through some movie magazines on the floor, pulls the weight of her body away from Alex’s legs and looks up.

“It’s time,” the worked up debutante states.

They both get on their feet and stare into each other’s eyes. The anxiety is about to burst out of Alex, just like her heart. Her best friend notices. She can’t believe how beautiful Alex is looking today. The makeup artist has done her best, just like the hairdresser and stylist. There’s no other person as lucky looking into her eyes as she is, right now. The truth is, she’s just as nervous as her Alex, but not over a major photoshoot. No, it’s because Alex’s soft smile makes her feel this way. Every inch of skin is itching and the dark-haired lady is suddenly overcome with a nauseating feeling.

“I’m fucking nervous,” she admits.

Amy grabs her best friend by the wrists and smiles decisively: “You have worked hard for this. You can do it. Remember: diligence is the mother of good luck.”

“Benjamin Franklin,” Alex remarks bashfully.

A proud face smiles at her: “See … Not nervous enough to remember the big ones.”

“Well, you keep repeating them to me,” Alex reminds her.

There are two assistants and a coordinator waiting for the newest discovery of Rick Spencer himself. Suddenly, an unrestrained Amy kisses Alex on the lips. It’s so sweet that it feels like silk. The desired effect gets accomplished: Alex’s mood lightens up miraculously.

“You can do this,” Amy whispers through her mouth.

And just like that, her Alex straightens her back, puts on her killer face and walks past her to the part of the room where an entire team of stressed professionals await her arrival. Rick starts applauding to announce her presence and smiles proudly at George and David, sitting near the massive window of the studio. It’s chilly, but Alex feels like a walking, burning flame. Nonetheless, she feels absolutely ready for this. Ready to smile and pose … and be awesome.


George and David can’t stop rambling over the amazing experience they just shared. More importantly, three other models attended the photoshoot as well, to give advice to their new colleague. They were rather famous, so David won’t get over that any time soon. The family starts to gather around for dinner. Even granddad and Eli are there to celebrate. Uncle Aaron is running late, as usual. Doctors!

Amy and Alex just sit next to each other in the couch. The black-haired beauty has transformed back to her normal clothes and her face carries less makeup than before. She feels amazing, though. Calm, at last. Funnily, the heat surfacing her skin doesn’t fade away. Like it’s an afterglow. The shoot went great, everyone there was so patient and sweet. The feeling it gave her, standing in front of the camera, it was the best thing she had ever experienced.  Like it all led up to the moment the photographer told her she was beautiful. Because in that second, she actually felt that way. Everything around her feels surreal, she’s dwelling in a world of bliss. Perfect, fucking bliss. Even better, Amy’s holding her hand. She hasn’t left her side, glaring at her in wonder, since the photoshoot ended. That made Alex feel more beautiful than ever before.

“What?” she finally asks, while smirking.

Her family keeps going on about the level of professionalism surrounding the event. George can’t believe the world his daughter is being dragged into. David, on the other hand, can’t stop wondering how many famous models he’ll run into in the next couple of months.

Amy gets up and drags her best friend along. They disappear into the hallway, where the lack of lightning submerges them into darkness. Alex touches the smooth face in front of her and frowns once she realizes what an amazing support Amy has been the last couple of days.

“I like you,” she suddenly whispers.

“Oh, I like you too,” Amy smirks.

But Alex shakes her head and stutters: “No, you don’t understand. I really, really like you.”

An amused and joyous face starts nodding. Amy starts wondering where this is going.

“I really, really like you too,” she assures her best friend.

Their hands entwine as the noises from the other room seem to get louder. The talking has transformed into laughter and joking around. The two girls block it out though, and remain focussed on each other.

“No, Amy, I …”

But the blonde stops her abruptly, putting her index finger on the fierce girl’s pouty lips: “Alex?”

“Yeah?”

Amy replaces her finger with her lips and kisses her friend long and tenderly, until butterflies come flying out of their ears. Their hearts start pounding uncontrollably. This feels even better than standing in front of the camera. When they part again, both girls tremble.

“I understand,” Amy explains.

In that moment, Alex realized that she has been wrong. She doesn’t just like Amy, she’s madly in love with her.

As the evening reaches its end, Amy leaves after secretly kissing Alex for hours in the bedroom. The minute she’s gone, Alex needs to catch her breath for a while. She’s tired, exhausted really, but the excitement of today keeps her awake. David knocks on her door around midnight to see if she’s still up. When she invites him in, he finds her laying on top of her bed, staring at the ceiling. She hardly even blinks. Yes, Amy kisses that great.

“Are you okay, Miss Tyra Banks?”

Alex curls on her side and frowns: “What, you’re saying I have a temper?”

Her cousin’s entertaining smile doesn’t fade until he’s seated next to her. The mattress is wiggling back and forth. Alex’s eyes inspect the place where Amy usually lies when she spends the night. A concerned sigh leaves her mouth.

“I think I might be gay.”

Unlike what she expected, David starts clapping.

“Look who finally dared to sneak out of her closet,” he jokes.

“What?”

He ignores the insulted part and casually shrugs: “Please! I’ve spend numerous days and nights with you guys. I can see what’s happening in the theaters, it’s not that dark in there.”

Alex’s shocked face refrains from softening up. For once, there’s no snarky response.

“And I’ve heard some slightly sexual noises too lately, which we’ll totally ignore for now,” David adds with a wink.

Now the girl’s officially embarrassed, so she hides her gorgeous face with a pillow. Guess they aren’t being as invisible as they assumed.

“I’ll call them: AA meetings,” the curly boy adds with certain mystery. “They are secretive, anonymous to the people you refuse to let in and the perfect place for addicts like you.”

Alex scoffs at that comment: “Wow. That’s really big of you.”

Somehow, the sarcasm of her words gets lost.

“Thanks,” he proudly chuckles.

His body lies down next to hers and they both end up staring at the blank ceiling above them. The cosy bedroom is quiet, which is nice for a change.

“You’re handling all of this pretty okay,” Alex reflects, crossing her arms behind her head. “You liked her a lot, didn’t you?”

His answer is honest, but rational: “I liked her. But you love her, don’t you?”

The world stops turning for a while, as she thinks things through. This feeling, it has now been confirmed. After the perfection of today, that little kiss in the hallway proved to be the best part of it all.

“Yes. I do.”


“So, daddy O, I never asked you this: what school did you go to? Princeton, Yale, … I bet it was Harvard?”

Amy takes a bite from the green apple she been playing around with. Her intrusive way of interrogating people amuses George. He sometimes wonders why Amy spends so much time at their place, even when his daughter isn’t around. Like now. She’s off to some meeting with Rick Spencer again, since a new potential gig came up. It requires a lot of marketing and auditioning, this modeling thing. Luckily, there aren’t many people as persistent as Alex Ochoa. When George asked what the ‘Riddick’ stands for in the company name, the smooth and ever charming Rick came up with the funniest and most awkward explanation he had ever heard. The founders’ names are Rick Spencer and Spencer Riddick. Both almost identically the same name, just the other way around.

“It gets confusing at parties sometimes,” he laughed while saying it.

Rick Spencer ‘guards’ the headquarter while Spencer Riddick flies around the world, searching for clients and remarkable talent nobody else has found yet. In theory, neither George or Alex will ever meet Spencer Riddick in person. In practice, given a big enough career, Alex just might.

Amy’s still waiting for an answer, but George just leans back in his kitchen chair and studies the curious way his second, surrogate daughter keeps staring at him. She amuses him. She fascinates him. Even when she was younger, Amy would come over to the house and ask about his favorite books. She followed his advice on exceeding the low literature standards at school and loved it. When he started pointing out her passion for movies, she volunteered to work at her parents’ company during school breaks. George has always been a constant in Amy’s life. Especially during her early teenage years, when mom and dad were consumed by the dazzling stack of work that taking over the family business brought along. Unlike Alex, who wasn’t the slightest interested in the arts department, she appreciated his efforts.

“Are you crazy?” he finally ridicules her words. “That’s the dullest school on this planet. I went to Stanford. California, that’s the place to be.”

“Is it?” Amy questions out loud.

He nods and a smile expresses the wave of memories takes control of him: “Great professors, great educational program. Great people.”

“I’m going to apply there too,” Amy admits.

She couldn’t have said a thing that could make him feel more pleased or proud.

“Really? What for?”

She shakes her head, takes another bite of the green apple and smirks.

“Isn’t that obvious? Documentary Film and Video.”

“Following the family tradition, are we?” George insinuates.

After giving it a long thought, she shrugs: “I love movies. I love making movies. Is it in my genes or is it in my heart? Doesn’t really matter, right? As long as I love doing it.”

“I know,” George apologizes calmly. “Would you like to go there, or do you have a bigger preference – somewhere else?”

He gets up on his feet and walks over to the counter to pour himself a cup of tea. A subtle gesture offers her one as well. She happily accepts. Daddy O makes the best tea.

Then, Amy explains her choice: “Not really. I like California as well. Plus, I’ve just been told that Harvard’s a bitch.”

George laughs amusingly and rubs the top of his bald head. This girl is quite something. No wonder Alex can’t last a day without her. This little one is going to make it in life. If there’s anyone of the youngsters roaming around the Ochoa house that sparkles that confidence in him, it’s her.

“But they only accept, like, eight students a year. It’s not going to be easy,” Amy resumes, as she swirls the tea with a spoon.

George has a way of helping her. Alumni that achieved the tittle of one of America’s most respected and experienced arts professors still have a foot in the door somehow. And with Amy’s perfect grades, it can’t be that hard to convince the dean.

“I’ll see if I can get a good word in for you, okay? I know you’re great. And talented. And you have this amazing gift of never getting tired of my daughter’s exhausting and all-consuming love. That helps.”

The way he looks at her makes her uncomfortable for a second. Her eyes flare up to the man that practically raised her. Even when he was away for business, visiting the Louvre in Paris or checking out Park Guëll in Barcelona for a week, he’d not only call his precious princess, but ring in to find out how Amy was doing as well.

“That would be awesome, sir,” she politely expresses her gratitude to him, carefully picking her words to avoid outing them before Alex has talked to him.

“Hey. Don’t be silly. It’s daddy O for you,” he winks lovingly.


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