Taylor woke up, rubbing his eyes. He looked over to the other side of the bed and could see Phyllis was still asleep. He slipped the covers off of himself and walked towards the bathroom. He looked in the mirror and smiled to himself, thinking about his plan for Phyllis’ 23rd birthday. He let Phyllis invite who she wanted to come over to the house and then he was going to take her out to dinner, just her and him. He grabbed the wash cloth off the vanity and turned the water on. He looked back out of the bathroom, towards the bed and could see she wasn’t going to be getting up any time soon. He finished in the bathroom and headed down the stairs, quietly shutting the door behind him. He walked to the kitchen and grabbed the phone.
“Hello? Candy?” Taylor said as the phone picked up.
“Hey Taylor. What’s up?” Candy said happily on the other line.
“You’re coming right? 1:00.” He said.
“Of course. So, what did you get Phyl?”
“That’s a surprise.” Taylor said, smiling to himself.
“Sorry, just curious. I’ll get Ike on, hold on.” She answered. Taylor waited patiently as the line picked up again.
“Tay?” Ike’s voice rang.
“Hey Ike. Just wanted to remind you…”
“I know, I know.” Ike answered as he cut him off.
“I’ll see you at 1:00.”
“Bye.” Ike said, hanging up the phone. Taylor hung up the phone and ran back upstairs to get dressed. He opened the door quietly again and walked to his closet. He rummaged through his clothes and decided to just wear a pair of jeans and a t- shirt. He looked over to see Phyllis starting to wake up.
“Morning.” She said, smiling sleepily. Taylor walked over to the bed and kneeled on it.
“Happy Birthday.” Taylor answered as he leaned in and kissed her.
“Come on, get ready.” He said, getting up off the bed.
“Tay, it’s only 9:00…” Phyllis said, starting to complain.
“Come on.” He said, laughing as he crawled back on the bed. He grabbed her pillow and looked down at her.
“Don’t you dare!” She laughed.
“I’ll do it! I’ll hit you with the pillow!” He threatened as he held the pillow high above his head.
“NO!” Phyllis yelled. She quickly grabbed the pillow next to her and got into a kneeling position on the bed. Before she could get her grip on the pillow, he wacked her with it right in the face.
“THIS MEANS WAR!” She laughed. She swung, missing him, almost falling off the bed.
“YOU’LL HAVE TO BETTER THAN THAT!” Taylor laughed as he got off the bed and walked towards her.
“TAY!” Phyllis yelled as he threw it at her. She ducked and it landed to the floor. She turned and looked back up at him.
“Fine! I’ll get ready.” She said, dropping her pillow on the bed.
“Good.” He smiled and turned to leave the room.
“NOT!” She yelled as she chucked it, hitting him in the face, just as he turned around.
Ike looked at the clock, noticing it was 12:30. He couldn’t be late. If he were, Taylor would kill him. Candy had already left to help Phyllis, Amanda and Holly at the house. Ike grabbed his car keys off his mantle and looked up. There, sitting there was a photo that he always looked at before he left the house. It was a photo with all of them. Taylor, Phyllis, Amanda, Holly, Phyllis’ friend Nicole from her last visit, his parents and his younger siblings, Candy, himself and…and Zac. Ike stood there, staring at the picture. He hadn’t heard from Zac for the exception of the studio. Even then, he didn’t say anything unless it had to do with the music. He hadn’t gotten a call in months. He really missed him. He missed the closeness him and his brothers had shared before the falling out between Zac and Taylor. But it seemed that was over. Their relationship was purely professional. Of course they would act like nothing was wrong during interviews or shoots to not have anyone lead to suspicion but otherwise there was nothing. Ike shook his head, trying to remember that that day was to celebrate Phyllis’ birthday. Taylor seemed so excited about it but of course wouldn’t tell anyone what he had planned. Ike opened the front door. He turned and looked at the picture again, then left. He jumped in his car and headed to his brother’s house.
“Hey Candy, what does Taylor have planned?” Amanda whispered as Phyllis left the room to make coffee.
“I don’t know. He didn’t even tell Ike.” Candy said, shrugging her shoulders.
“Wow, must be a real big surprise if he didn’t even tell Ike.” Holly laughed.
“Uh, by the way, did you hear…” Amanda began until Phyllis walked in the room.
“What are you three talking about?” Phyllis smiled.
“Nothing.” They all said, smiling awkwardly.
“Oh…when is that husband of yours getting here?” Phyllis asked, looking at Candy.
“I told him to get here by…”
“Hello all.” Ike smiled as he opened the door.
“IKE!” Taylor yelled, coming down the stairs.
“I need to talk to you!” Taylor yelled again as he grabbed Ike by the arm and dragged him up the stairs.
“But…but…” Ike stammered.
“NOW!” Taylor demanded. The girls all started laughing hysterically.
“Okay guys, what is he planning. I know he’s up to something.” Phyllis smiled as she sat down on the couch and handed everyone their coffee.
“If we knew…well…we wouldn’t tell you.” Holly smiled back.
“I mean, he’s been weird all week long. He’s been all secretive and everything.” Phyllis explained, taking a sip of her coffee.
“Who knows.” Candy said, leaning back in her seat.
“Did he tell Ike?” Phyllis asked.
“Ike doesn’t know anything. I imagine he knows now since Taylor has just dragged him upstairs.” Amanda laughed.
“Oh…I forgot to tell you guys that….” Phyllis began until the doorbell rang.
“I guess I don’t have to explain.” She smiled as she opened the door.
Standing in the door way was a woman, wearing a knee length, pink skirt, white v-neck shirt and her brown hair with natural blonde highlights pulled up in a high pony tail.
“CLAIRE!” They all yelled. Phyllis hugged her as she walked in the house.
“I’m so glad you could make it.” Phyllis smiled.
“I was happy that you had invited me.” Claire smiled.
“Oh, here’s your gift.” She smiled and handed Phyllis a gift bag.
“Oh…thank you so much.” Phyllis said, taking it from her. She put it down on the floor near the couch.
“Sit.” Phyllis said, as she brought a chair in the room. Claire sat down and looked at everyone else and smiled.
“Claire, it’s been so long.” Candy smiled.
“I know. I’m sorry I haven’t kept in contact. Ever since mom and dad’s divorce, things have been a little hectic.” Claire answered.
“I didn’t know your parents got divorced.” Amanda said in a shocked tone.
“Oh…yeah…a couple of months ago. I’m living with my father right now.” Claire added.
“That’s too bad.” Holly said.
“So, where’s Taylor?” Claire asked, looking around the house.
“Oh…he’s upstairs with Ike.” Phyllis said. Phyllis got up and looked down at Claire.
“Do you want some coffee?”
“Oh…no thanks. I wouldn’t mind some water though.” Claire smiled. Phyllis left the room and into the kitchen.
“So…uh…Claire…what’s been going on?” Amanda said awkwardly as she thought about Zac and her.
“Oh…uh…nothing really. Oh…I got accepted to Penn. State. I’m leaving in July to get settled in and start classes in the fall.”
“Are you staying in a dorm?” Candy questioned.
“No, I’m staying by myself. I got an apartment.” Claire said, looking down at her hands awkwardly.
“You did! That’s great!” Amanda exclaimed.
“Yeah. I was going to wait till classes started and stay in a dorm…but…I had to get out on my own.” Claire answered.
“Claire?” Taylor called as him and Ike came down the stairs.
“Hey!” Claire smiled as she got up. Taylor came over and hugged her and so did Ike.
“We haven’t heard from you in such a long time.” Ike said.
“Yeah…I was just telling the girls that my parents got divorced and….”
“They did?” Taylor said in a shocked tone.
“It was just not working out and wasn’t worth them staying together. They’re better off I think. I’m staying with my father until July when I go to my apartment and start my classes in the fall at Penn. State.” Claire answered.
“Oh…” Both Ike and Taylor said, not knowing what to say about that.
“Well…let’s start the party!” Holly said, jumping in just as everyone else were at a loss for words.
“We can’t start yet! Not everyone is here!” Phyllis said, jumping to her feet.
“Who else is coming?” Taylor questioned.
“I…I…” Phyllis stammered.
“Phyl, tell me who else is coming!” Taylor demanded as he started feeling the anger build.
“You’ll just have to wait and see and that’s all I have to say!” Phyllis said defiantly as she crossed her arms over her chest.
“Well, uh…let’s open gifts!” Amanda said, smiling awkwardly as she tried to break up the upcoming argument.
“Good idea!” Ike said, walking over to Candy.
“Hon, where’s your gift?” Ike asked, looking towards Taylor and Phyllis, who were staring intently at each other.
“Over by my pocket book. Did you remember yours?” Candy answered.
“Yeah, It’s over there.” Ike said, pointing to the table in the kitchen.
“Okay! Gift time!” Holly yelled, jumping up. Claire looked all around nervously. She picked up her gift bag for Phyllis and put in her lap as she waited for everyone else to retrieve their gifts.
“Me first!” Amanda said, handing Phyllis her gift. Phyllis smiled and took it. It was a small, flat box, covered in bright colored wrapping paper. Phyllis tore the paper carefully and looked down at the box.
“Guylian chocolate! Thanks!” Phyllis smiled at Amanda.
“Dude! You got chocolate!” Taylor said excitedly as he immediately changed his expression.
“Hey bub! These are mine!” Phyllis laughed.
“Next!” Amanda declared, looking over at Holly.
“Oh…yeah.” Holly said.
“This is from both me and Amanda.” Holly said, handing Phyllis an envelope.
“What’s this?” Phyllis asked curiously as she looked up at Holly.
“Just open it.” Holly smiled. Phyllis tore open the envelope and looked at the contents.
“Oh my god.” Phyllis said, letting her jaw drop.
“What is it?” Ike asked, as he tried to look.
“It’s tickets to go and see that new art exhibit I’ve been wanting to go to.” Phyllis said, pulling the tickets out and showing everyone.
“Wow.” They all said.
“Okay, my turn. I had a real hard time trying to find anything for you…but…here.” Ike said, handing Phyllis a box covered in red paper. Phyllis smiled as she took it and opened it gently.
“Wow! New paints! I really needed these Ike! Thanks. These are really expensive though…” Phyllis said, looking at him.
“Hey! I just thought you would like them so I bought them.” Ike smiled.
“I would like to give you my gift if you don’t mind.” Claire spoke up. She handed Phyllis the gift bag and smiled. Phyllis pulled the tissue paper out of it and reached in. She pulled something out and stared at it for a long time. She looked like she was going to cry.
“Phyl, let me see.” Taylor said, carefully taking it from her. He turned it around after looking at it to show everyone. In his hands was a framed picture of all of them, at a family picnic.
“This is wonderful.” Phyllis smiled, wiping a tear from her eye.
“My turn!” Candy said excitedly, trying to change the mood. Phyllis sniffled a little and waited patiently. Candy walked over to her pocket book and grabbed a box that was lying next to it. It was a pretty normal sized box and was covered in the same wrapping paper Ike had on his.
“Here you go.” Candy smiled.
“Just…be careful when you open it.” She laughed.
“What did you do?” Phyllis questioned as she raised her eyebrows in suspicion.
“Holly and Amanda helped me out on this one.” Candy smiled.
“We give Candy full credit.” Holly spoke up.
“Oh god.” Phyllis said before she opened the box. She tore the paper off and placed it to the side. She lifted the top and peaked in.
“Oh…” Phyllis began and quickly shut it again.
“Thank you all for my gifts.” She smiled.
“Let me see.” Taylor said, as he attempted to take the box from Phyllis.
“That’s not necessary.” Phyllis laughed as she moved it away from him.
“Come on!” He said. He grabbed her and started tickling her until she gave it up.
“That was sneaky!” Phyllis said, trying to contain her laughter.
“I want to see what is so funny!” Taylor said. He pulled off the top and threw it to the side. He reached into the box, still looking at Phyllis and lifted the item in the air.
“DON’T!” Phyllis yelled.
“Oh my lord…” Taylor gasped as he looked at the item. He had in his hands a cherry red piece of lingerie. He quickly stuffed it back in the box and pulled the top back on. He immediately turned bright red, almost matching the underwear, and hid his face with his hair. Everyone started laughing hysterically.
“That was great!” Holly laughed, almost letting her tears fall down her cheeks.
“That was too good!” Amanda giggled. She was holding her stomach, trying to stop her laughter.
“Uh…I have to go now.” Taylor said and immediately left the room and went up the stairs.
“You embarrassed him!” Phyllis yelled but couldn’t hold in her own laughter.
“Sorry, we had too.” Candy said.
“I can’t believe you guys would do that.” Ike said, as he stopped laughing and looked seriously at the girls.
“Boy, I’ve missed a lot since I’ve been gone haven’t I.” Claire laughed.
“Okay, that was pretty funny guys but now it’s my turn.” Taylor called from the top of the stairs. He had in his arms around a huge box with a huge red ribbon around it.
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