A/N: The events in this chapter take place a few months after Chapter 1.
"So... that was nice", said T-Bone, lips pressed together in an awkward half smile, hands stuck in his pockets.
"Yeah…" Ruthie responded, turning to face him on the steps leading to the backdoor. They had gone out to the promenade for lunch and just returned home. "I guess I'll head back in. I have some cleaning to do and…" she trailed off before asking, "we'll talk soon?"
"Sure", he said, a slightly awkward moment passing between them before he leaned in and kissed her forehead. Ruthie experienced a deja vu, her mind flashing back to the time when Vincent had kissed her on the forehead on these very same steps. She half snorted as she remembered his flimsy excuse of being sick, but sobered up as she remembered that it had foreshadowed the end of their relationship and Vincent's waning attraction towards her. Then, she was confused and concerned. Now, with T-bone repeating the same action, she felt numb and a little indifferent. She gave him a small smile and slipped into the kitchen, closing the door behind her.
"Didn't T-bone want to come in?" Annie Camden asked from her seat at the kitchen table, sifting through the day's mail.
"No mom. He's going back to his apartment and I have some things to do", Ruthie said as she made her way to the stairs leading to the upper levels of the house.
Her mother looked as if she was contemplating something. Ruthie braced herself as Annie finally spoke up, "Ruthie, honey..."
"It's all ok, mom", Ruthie cut her off and offered her a tight lipped smile. Annie sighed, but seemed to think better of pursuing the subject. Instead, she gave Ruthie that motherly look which conveyed a myriad of emotions: concern, understanding, sympathy. Ruthie's smile softened into something more genuine as she turned back and hurried up the stairs.
She reached her bedroom and started sorting through the pile of folders and clothes dumped on the two beds. The simple chores couldn't get her mind off T-bone though. Their relationship seemed to be in decline after returning home from the road trip. It surprised Ruthie. She was so sure that the road trip would bring them even closer. After all, he was the man she thought she would one day marry. Now, she was not so sure. Their last few dates have been awkward; the conversation stilted. It was as though they were slowly growing apart and, Ruthie thought with a pang, losing interest in each other. But Ruthie was not yet ready to let go… She didn't know if she wanted to let go.
"Ex-trah Curry-cool-arr Acti-vi-tees?" Ruthie was jolted back from her thoughts and she turned to find Sam peering at a piece of paper on her bed. David was next to him, soundlessly mouthing the words. "What does that mean?" Sam asked.
Ruthie realised that they were reading some old college application forms. "Extracurricular Activities. You know, like things you do after school. Sports, clubs and societies… things like that. Colleges like to ask about those things".
"Ohhh", the twins said in unison. "Is it like when Mary played Basketball?" David asked, but before she could answer, Sam posed another question. "What are your Ex-trah Curry-cool-arr Acti-vi-tees?"
"Well…" Ruthie frowned as she tried to list them. Her concentration was broken by another question from David. "What is this, Ruthie?" She turned towards him, fondly rolling her eyes. Who needed exams when the twins were around? Their questions were never ending and annoying, but she loved them.
The purple binder in David's hand was familiar. Ruthie smiled as she realised what it was. "It's a scrap book" she says and traces the words on the cover, 'The adventures of Ruthie Camden', written in glitter marker pens. "I used to glue photos from my 'adventures' in this. They are mostly things or events that were important to me".
"Let's see! We want to see!" the twins yelled, jumping up and down on the bed.
"Alright, alright! Stop jumping and sit down", she said as she settled herself on the bed between her brothers. Together, they turned the pages as she told them the stories behind the photographs, the twins interjecting enthusiastically with their comments and questions.
The first few pages were filled with photos from her baby and toddler days ("Ruthie! You were so little! You were littler than us!"), then gradually moved on to her years in elementary school, middle school and high school. She chuckled at a photograph of her younger self in an elementary school football uniform, a glimpse of her football nickname "Hammer" printed across the back ("Why don't you play anymore?"). She told the twins about her games and how supportive and proud Mary was of her. "Good memories..." she murmured and flipped on to the next page, this one showing her sitting proudly atop a horse in full equestrian gear ("We want to ride horsies too! Can you teach us? Pleeeeeeease?").
As Ruthie turned the pages, she noticed an unsettling trend. "No, no, no..." she whispered to herself, flipping back to the beginning of the book in denial of what she was seeing. It seemed as though once she reached her high school years, the pictures of her friends and interests had gradually disappeared. In its place were a few photographs of her with Vincent ("We don't like him!" "We don't!"), some with Martin, and more with T-Bone.
When did she lose interest in everything other than boys?
Ruthie sat there, thoughts warring within her mind, barely noticing as the twins lost interest in the book and ran out of her room for a spontaneous game of tag. 'It isn't true!' she thought, desperately searching for anything that could redeem her. 'I graduated high school early, I had other things going on in my life… like… Scotland!' she thought triumphantly, getting up to sort through her cluttered room again. Her grin soon turned into a frown as she remembered her behaviour in Scotland and her attitude after her return. She stilled.
What has she become?
A/N: Thank you for all the encouraging responses :-) It has been years! I was trying to write the perfect second chapter as I didn't want to disappoint any of you, but that ultimately lead to zero results and other things eventually took over my life.
I've decided to get back into this once again. My apologies if this isn't what your expected; my writing (and creativity) is a bit rusty right now. I wanted to explore Ruthie's feelings before getting her and Martin to interact (which will happen in the next chapter!)