Chapter 5: Problem-Brandon
Brandon definitely wasn’t a morning person. I learned this the hard way when, the morning following the one room fiasco, he all but bit my head off.
“Aren’t you just gorgeous in the morning?” I grinned from my position on the bed as I stared over at him.
Brandon’s dark hair was sticking up at odd angles all around his head like an unbearably messy halo and his half-lidded eyes had dark circles under them.
“I dislike you,” he groaned, falling back onto his pillows with a faint whoomp. The air that escaped from the pillows only served to muss his hair further.
“And I’m not your biggest fan.” I sent a smug smile in his direction before leaping off of the bed and running a hand through my tangled mess of hair. “Now that we’ve cleared the air, what say we get some breakfast?”
A frown formed on his face, “No.”
“Oh, come on,” I whined. “I’m hungry.”
One of his eyes opened half-way so that he could look at me, “No.”
“Are you some kind of super-human that doesn’t need to eat or something?”
“Exactly. I’m Superman. Now leave me alone. Can’t you get breakfast without me?”
I grimaced, “Yes, I could. But I’m leaving right after breakfast; I’m putting my bags in the car before I eat.” One of my eyebrows lifted even though he was no longer looking at me. “Do you really want to be stuck here?”
He rolled over and buried his face into the pillows in reply.
“Brandon Nickson, I will leave you at this hotel! Now you get up right before I count to three or I will skip breakfast and just leave right here and now!” Paying no attention to how much like a ruffled mother-hen I sounded, I allowed my voice to raise in both pitch and volume.
“Yoowoolder!” Brandon’s voice was muffled by the pillows, but I imagined that he had said, ‘you wouldn’t dare!’.
“Oh, wouldn’t I?” I smirked as his head moved a little bit, as if he were doubting himself. “I almost left you in New York; how would this be any different?”
His head shot up, and a triumphant smile lit the corners of his lips as he turned to face me, “But you didn’t leave me in New York! You changed your mind.”
“Well, duh.” I rolled my eyes as if the reason I had changed my mind was painfully obvious. “You could have died back there. I practically saved your life, dude.”
“Do elaborate.” By now, Brandon had taken his glasses off of the bed-side table and had balanced them perfectly on the bridge of his nose.
“I can sum it up in two words, bro. The. Mob.” I settled back against the wall behind me comfortably, arms crossed over my chest.
One side of the young man’s face wrinkled in an expression of disgust at my mention of the imaginary mob that was chasing me through the streets of New York, and, for a second, a flash of vulnerability moved across his face.
I let my arms fall to my sides and I pushed myself off of the wall, confident that with those simple words I had effectively ended any and all arguments. Shoving my toiletry bag into the top of one of my suitcases before grabbing the room key, I turned around to head out the door when Brandon’s voice stopped me. “You know… the more I think about it, the more I think there is no mob.”
I turned to face him very slowly, “What are you talking about?”
“If there really was a mob, don’t you think that they’d have caught us by now?” His thin legs swung off the pull-out bed at a sluggish pace and once his feet hit the carpet, he stood. “It really doesn’t make much sense for us to be perfectly safe staying in one place for as long as we have, now does it?”
I tried to laugh off his accusation, but it came out shaky and hollow, “You’ve watched too many mobster movies, Brandon. We’re out of their territory now; we’re no longer important.”
“You’re no longer important,” he corrected snidely. “What exactly did you do to have to hide from them behind a conference-center trash can?”
“That’s none of your business,” I snapped, before turning again and picking my bags up.
“Deflection. There is no mob.”
Anger started to boil in the pit of my twisting stomach, and I fought the urge to throw a punch, “No, Brandon; there is no mob. Are you happy now? Do you feel some kind of nerdy victory because you’re always right?” My bags were tumbled onto the floor where I had dropped them, and my hands were tight in fists at my sides.
Brandon and I stood there, glaring at each other with enough force to shoot lasers out of our eyes.
I was the one who turned away first. I didn’t drop my glare, nor did my frustration subside, but I knew I needed to start moving again. Retrieving my fallen bags from the floor, I exited the hotel room—not really caring if Brandon was coming with me or not. I used my back to open the door leading outdoors and had my bags in the trunk of my car within two minutes. Because of the twists in my stomach, I no longer felt hungry and merely walked to the front desk to check out. My expression must have been dark, because the young receptionist’s mouth twisted into a frown upon seeing me.
Outside, the wind was brisk, and the cool air bit at the tip of my nose. A few miniscule, dried, brown leaves caught on the breeze and blew through the air, brushing against the strands of hair that had begun to dance in the air. I allowed myself to watch the leaves whirl through the air in a graceful motion before I returned my attention to the problem at hand: Brandon.
Now that he knew there was no real danger, would he want to go back to New York? If he did, would I take him?
I grimaced at the thoughts before heaving a sigh at the sight of Brandon leaning against the driver’s side door of my car.
“Get out of the way.” I breathed, stopping in front of him.
He didn’t say a word as he moved back onto the nearby sidewalk. I climbed into the car, started the engine and pulled my seatbelt across my torso. Still, he didn’t move from where he was standing. Arguing with myself for a few moments before doing so, I rolled my window down and stuck my head out halfway.
“Are you getting in or what?”
Brandon had been looking down at his toes, but at the sound of my voice, his head shot up. “What?”
“Are you getting in the car?” I quirked one eyebrow playfully, masking my inner discomfort.
A small smile lifted the corners of Brandon’s lips as he walked over and clambered into the car without a word.
We had pulled out of the parking lot and been well under way by the time I spoke.
“Do you want to go back to New York?”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw his head swivel around so that he could stare at me from behind his thick glasses. “What?”
I swallowed the lump in my throat and repeated myself.
Brandon’s hands folded in his lap, and he stared out the windshield for a few long moments before answering. “No, I don’t want to go back to New York.” His lower-lip slipped between his teeth as he chewed on it thoughtfully, “I do, however want to go home.”
My brow furrowed in confusion, but I kept my gaze resolutely on the road ahead of us. “Home? Where do you live then?”
“Florida…” I murmured. My fingers began to drum against the edge of the steering wheel, “That’s a ways away.”
He winced lightly, “If you drop me off somewhere, I can catch a bus or a train down if it’s too much—“
“I’ll take you down there.” His face whirled to face mine and I continued. “It’s the least I could do…” I didn’t bother elaborating. I knew that he knew what I was talking about.
“You don’t have to, Calypso. You can—“
“I want to drive you down there; as an apology.” Tearing my eyes away from the road, I faced him. “So… apology accepted?”
He grinned shyly, “Only if you accept mine.”
I returned his smile with one of my own as I felt the uncomfortable knots in my stomach unravel, “Then I guess we had better get started.”