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Take Me Away
Author's note: The first chapter was inspired by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Bless the families and friends of the victims. This is my first finished short story that I don't absolutely despise.
“Kali! Get out of the bathroom! The bus will be here any minute.” My little brother beat on the door, “How long does it take for a seventeen year old to get ready? It’s not like you have a boyfriend!”
I stomped towards the door and flung it open, “Quit being a brat. That’s the point I don’t have a boyfriend, therefore, I take more time in the bathroom. Thank you, I’ll be here all week.” I closed the door and went back to the sink to coat on some more mascara.
“Kali. Bus will be here soon.” He called through the door.
I tossed the mascara in the sink and stalked off into the kitchen, throwing sub leftovers and a bag of chips into a lunch box. I handed them to him. “Here Alan. Buy your milk at school.” I reached into my pocket and handed him a dollar. “I’ll be by the school to pick you up after tenth period.”
He nodded and rushed out the front door. With a sigh, I walked back to the bathroom for one last inspection. I put the lid back on the mascara and cleaned up the toothpaste mess Alan had left. Sliding on my faded combat boots, I made my way through my morning checklist.
Math book? Check.
I grabbed my phone and keys and ran out to the Jeep in the rain. I lit the ignition up and turned the radio down. I had a headache and wasn’t in the mood for whatever my brother had left in the CD player. I pulled out of the driveway and headed for my best friend, Kay’s, house.
I pulled in and she was already on her porch. Her crimped dark hair bounced as she jogged through the rain to the Jeep. “Hey babe.” She said, slamming the passenger door closed.
“Hey.” I said blandly.
“What’s wrong with you?” she asked, buckling her belt.
I put the Jeep in reverse and pulled out of her drive. “Nothing, I guess. Just tired of mom working all the time. I know she tries, but I feel like I’m raising my brother. And he’s a brat, so that isn’t saying much.”
“So I’m guessing he’s been getting on your nerves lately?”
I nodded, “Mhmm. Sometimes I wish I could just go live somewhere else and get away from him for awhile. The kid gives me headaches.”
“Well, you still love him.” Kay said.
“I guess so.” I said, pulling the Jeep into the school parking lot. I swung the door open, “come on.”
“One sec.” Kay gestured, holding her finger up. She flipped down the visor and pulled some red lipstick.
“Ew don’t wear that.” I commented truthfully.
“Why not? Come on babe, don’t be a scrooge.” She teased, popping her lips. She looked over at me and made a kissy face. “Really that bad?”
I looked at her. Kay had been blessed with perfection. She was thin, with dark skin and jet black hair. I was amazed by her sense of style, and jealous of her good looks. She could pull anything off, “Actually, it looks good. Can we go to school now?”
Kay smiled, “Sure you don’t wanna ditch?”
I pulled my shoulder bag out of the Jeep and threw it over my shoulder, “No Kay. It’s the first day back for Christmas vacation. We can’t just skip.”
She swung her door open, and hopped out after me. “And why not?”
“Because it’d be dumb.”
The day seemed to drag on for what seemed like ever. When the tenth period bell rang, I headed to my last class of the day: Creative Writing. This was my favorite class. Writing is my passion and there was nothing I loved more.
I walked into classroom and stood along the wall with the ten other students that took this class. I couldn’t see over their heads, I was much shorter than everyone else, and they were all crowded around the door. “Have a seat class.” I heard Mr. Joliffe call over the crowd.
The class spread out as they moved into the classroom. I saw that all of the chairs and desks were gone, and were replaced by large, plush pillows. “What’s all of this Mr. Joliffe?” I asked.
Mr. Joliffe’s classroom has always been the best room in the school. Since he didn’t have many students, he took the liberty of making his classroom as comfortable as possible. He only had two periods, usually containing about twelve students. Mr. J’s room always had multi-colored lights hanging from corners and colorful shades over the windows to make the classroom more lively and comfortable. I loved his class. “Alright class. Everyone sit down.” He said to us. “As you can tell, I did more of my re-decorating and took out all of the desks and chairs.” He began pacing the circle of pillows, “I read about an exercise in writing when the teacher gave their students paper, a pencil and a clipboard and took them out to the woods.” He paused, “He asked them to fan out and begin describing what they say with their words. He told them to help a blind man see and a rich man realize. Well, unfortunately, I our school is in outer city Colorado.” The class laughed briefly, “So, as a compromise, I redecorated the classroom. Class, pull out your journals, and describe this room. Be very descriptive, because I’m sending them to the principal as a way of breaking the news to him that I got rid of all the desks.”
The class laughed as they pulled out their journals and pencils and began to write.
With ten minutes left in the period, the announcements came on, “All students with an early driving permit to pick up younger siblings may now proceed to the school lot and make their way to the elementary school.”
I sighed and looked at my unfinished writing project. “Why don’t you just hang back today if you aren’t done? It’s not like they’ll throw him out onto the street.” Mr. Joliffe joked.
I shrugged and looked at the clock, “Okay, but only for a minute or so.”
Two minutes later, the bell for locker dismissal rang, and everyone began packing up his or her books. But before anyone made it out of his or her classrooms, unlike usual, the announcements came on. “Excuse me. JFK high school, can I please have your attention, this is a very serious announcement.” The principals’ voice said.
Everyone froze in their tracks to listen.
The announcement continued, “Moments ago, the elementary school went under lockdown.” The classroom gasped and I felt my blood run cold. I turned to Mr. Joliffe, “What does he mean?” I asked.
“The school went under this lockdown due to an intruder. He had a gun, and we have just been informed that it was fired, and there are injuries and deaths.”
I felt my knees buckle under me. Alan! I was late to pick up Alan. Mr. Joliffe ran over to me and put and hand on my shoulder, but I couldn’t feel his touch. I was numb with fear and horror. Who would do such a thing; such an evil thing as to kill innocent children?
“The shooter was taken, but the school is under complete lockdown until the parents of the students can be there to pick them up. We are glad to say, though, that all students up here with a younger sibling in the school have most likely gone to get them before this all began. Again, this is a tragedy, and we plan to do what we can for the student body.” Then the PA system clicked off.
“Except me!” I found myself yelling. I stood up and ran out of my writing class. Tears streamed down my face as I pushed through the hushed whispers of the crowded hallways. Suddenly, Kay shot out of one of the intercept halls. She caught my arm and held me in a tight grip, “What are you doing here?” she yelled in panic.
“Alan! I need to get Alan!” I screamed. People in the halls were looking at me, but I didn’t care. Kay nodded and pulled my arm out to the school parking lot. I felt my pockets, “I don’t have my keys. They’re in my locker.” I sobbed.
“Forget the keys.” Kay said, grabbing my arm and dragging me with her.
The high school, middle school, and elementary school were all on the same grounds, just different buildings. We were a small class of kids so there was enough room to just build the schools all together on about seven or eight acres. Kay and I ran down the hill towards the elementary school. Police cars set out front and yellow caution tape was already draping the outskirts of the school. Ambulance lights flashed from the side entrance, and little kids crowded onto the schools front lawn, their faces red and puffy from tears. Mine was probably similar.
I ran to the front entrance, Kay right behind me. I wound through the children searching for a familiar face in the children. One of his friends or his teacher; I didn’t find one. I called out his name, “Alan! Alan please be out here!” I cried desperately. “Please be okay.” I whispered, letting myself crumple to the ground.
A little girl came up to me. Her long blond hair was strewn all over the place and her nose was red. Her blue eyes were puffy with tears as she clutched a limp stuffed rabbit to her chest. “Are you Alan’s big sister?” she asked weakly.
I nodded, putting my hands over my face. “I think he’s inside.” She said, pointing at the front entrance.
I looked up at the little girl, and reach up to wipe a tear from her eye. “Thank you sweetheart.” I said, before jumping up and running to the front entrance once more. There, I found Kay arguing with an officer. I threw myself at him in desperation. “Please! My little brother! He’s in there! Please!”
“I’m sorry ma’am, I can’t let you in here. It’s a crime scene.” The man said.
“You have to let me in!” I begged, “Please! I was late and he-”
“Let her in.” a voice said from behind the man. It was Ms. Shoemaker, Alan’s fourth grade teacher. Her hair was ratty and matted with blood. She looked distraught and sympathetic.
The officer stepped to the side and Kay and I rushed in after her. I didn’t wait for Ms. Shoemaker; I ran through the hallway to her classroom, I could hear Kay’s footsteps close behind mine. I busted into room 133. The door was wrapped with police tape and seemed to barely be hanging on its hinges. The room was almost too much to look at.
A window was busted open and a chair was lying just outside of it. There were- there were bullet holes in the walls and the cabinets were strewn open, all of their contents lay on the ground. Little desks were flipped over and backpacks were torn out of their cubbies. Bloody handprints were smearing in several places, and there was a paramedic crouched down just outside the closet…
I ran over to the paramedic and shoved her away harshly, screaming, “Alan!” the woman went to reach for me, but I think Ms. Shoemaker told her not to. I dropped to my knees into a pool of blood, were a small body lay. I pulled my little brother into my arms and held him tight. I held him and cried. It was my entire fault. I’d left him here. If only I had left when I was supposed to- he’d be okay. I got a rotten feeling in my stomach as I came to this realization. My baby brother was dead because of me. I looked down at his pale face. He looked so much younger than he was. His lips were parted and his brown hair hung in his eyes as if he were only sleeping. Maybe he was only sleeping- maybe I was only sleeping and this was all a dream. Soon I’d wake up to the smell of him trying to make eggs or the sound of him laughing as the dog barked at the mailman-
No. I had to face it. He was gone. My little boy, was so innocent, and I’d let him down. I thought of the way I’d called him a brat this morning. And of the way I had blown him off and locked him out of the bathroom. I thought of the way I’d told Kay that I wished I could leave him. I was a horrible sister to him. He didn’t deserve to be laying here in my arms. It was me! It was my fault! I deserved this! Not him!
I felt Kay sit down next to me and wrap her arms around my shoulders as I held my little brother for one last time.
“Sweetheart, it wasn’t your fault.” My mother whispered from across the waiting room.
“How isn’t it?” I managed out, my voice scratchy and raw from crying and screaming.
“You didn’t know something like that would happen.” She paused, “It happened in a matter of minutes. It wasn’t your fault. It was the shooters.”
I pulled my sleeve down and used it to wipe under my raccoon eyes, “If I had left earlier I would’ve gotten him out of there like the other students did with there younger siblings.”
My mother just shook her head at that.
We were at the hospital at the moment in a large glass waiting room, waiting for who knows what. We didn’t even know, we just knew we had to wait. Mom and I had spent the night in a hospital room last night after the shooting. Of course, it’s not like I really got any sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking.
It had been just over a week since Christmas. I thought of all the new gifts he’d just opened. I thought of how excited he was when mom rolled his new bike into the living room and the look on his face when he handed me his Christmas present to me. I thought of all the days him and I spent together. I thought of all of our secret codes and our Sunday nights ranting over the football games...
And I couldn’t help but wonder why the doctors were keeping a dead child here. I didn’t understand what they were doing. There was no way to save him, and cause of death was obvious.
I pushed out of the plush armchair I was sitting in and walked towards the door. “I think I’m going to go get some coffee. Want anything?” I asked blandly.
“No thanks honey, I’m fine.”
I handed the cashier the money and went to sit down on one of the cafeteria tables. The chairs were cold and uncomfortable. I hated hospitals. It always reminded me of all of the sickness and death that was really in the world. Across the room I saw a girl a little younger than me crying in her moms arms. Patches of her red hair were falling out as her mother stroked her head. I felt my heart break inside my chest. A few tables over, I saw a girl my age, holding a newborn. Her head in her free hand as the baby cried. I got up and walked over to her. “Hi.” I said quietly.
“Hey.” She whispered, looking up at me.
I nodded towards the baby, “He yours?”
She nodded shamefully, “Yes.”
“Can I see him? I’m pretty good with babies.” I said, setting my coffee down.
She smiled and handed me the baby. “Support the head.” She whispered.
I took the baby in my arms and gently bounced him as he cried. “Shhh baby.” The baby slowly quieted to little whimpers. I traced slow circles in the babies arm as he drifted to sleep.
Amber smiled, “You are good with kids.”
“I have… had a little brother.” I corrected. I looked at her thoughtfully, “Do you think that when a child dies, that a new one is born in his place?”
She shrugged, “Only God knows.”
I smiled at her and bent down to hand her baby back. “It was nice talking to you. I wish you and your baby the best.”
“Thank you.” She stuck he hand out and I shook it, “Amber Powell.”
I had nowhere to be, so I roamed the hospital halls for a while, only stopping to sip my coffee. I decided to head back to my mom at a quarter to eight. I turned around and started heading towards the waiting room when I ran into someone and my coffee went flying. “Oh I’m sorry!” his voice cried.
I stood up and cleaned up my coffee cup. “No, I’m sorry. I got coffee all over you.”
The dark haired boy looked down at me, but I didn’t even look at him. I was screwing up so much lately and I couldn’t stand it. He wore a winter coat and I was sure that the coffee would stain the light blue fabric. “I’m sorry…” I rambled on, “I will get you a paper towel.”
The boy grabbed my sleeve. “It’s okay really, but there is something you could help me with.” He looked down at me and I finally looked up at him. He smiled at me with perfect lips and dark eyes. He was quite attractive; I’d give him that. “I just got here from far away and I’m looking for the visitors desk.” he said, in a deep voice that almost seemed to have a bit of a british accent to it... or irish, I couldn't decide.
I smiled at him shyly, “Well I’ve paced this hospital enough to know that that is right up this hall, to the left and when the floor changes from tile to carpet, make another left and it should be at the end of that hall.”
“So, straight, left, straight to carpet, then left?” he asked, gesturing his hands in the directions.
I did my best to smile, “Yeah, that sounds right, I think.”
“So are you a patient here?” he asked.
I shook my head meekly, “No, I’m here for my brother.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. What’s he sick with?”
I shook my head and swallowed, “He- he’s…” I couldn’t bring myself to say ‘dead’ it seemed too harsh. “He’s gone.”
The boy frowned, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t of asked, it’s none of my business.”
“No- it’s okay, really. You didn’t know.”
The boy stuck his hand out, “I’m Kurt.”
I shook it, “Kali.”
“Nice to meet you, Kali.”
“Dido.” I whispered shyly. “Well, I think maybe I should get back to my mom, she needs me right now.”
He nodded, “I understand. I just drove in and my grandpa needs me.”
I pulled a smile out of the dark abyss of my heart, “See you around.”
I approached the glass room. From the outside, the wall was distorted and all you could see were shadows and outlines, but it was enough for me to see two people in the room. I ran in the door to see my mother crying in the doctor’s arms. I walked over and gently pulled her away. “Mom. You can’t break now. We need to be strong and get all the funeral arrangements made.”
She nodded as she leaned on my shoulders. I sighed, “Come on mom, we need to go home.”
A Month Later
I got out of bed and slipped on a pair of socks. I had no initiative to get dressed or do anything for that matter. The past month had been nothing but funeral arrangements and visiting family members offering their condolences. Alan’s funeral had been a week ago and had been packed. There were students, teachers, family members, my friends, and just about every other person who had been victim of Alan stealing their hearts.
I’d been on a constant perfection spree since the funeral. Everything had to be right and be perfect with everything I did. I thought that maybe it was some sort of control issue that I was developing from not being able to control what happened to Alan. But just yesterday we got the whole incident in full detail. How it all happened, and I wanted nothing more than to crawl into a ball and disappear.
As it turned out, Alan had died a little hero. He was shot protecting a little girl. He was in the closet, but when she was without a hiding place, he stepped out and let her in. But before and could even step away from the door…
The school has been closed since the incident. Many children have therapy sessions most of the day and were afraid to return to school. As it turned out, there were about thirteen or fourteen children killed, as well as the principal and a few teachers. The shooter was found down the road… dead in a grocery store parking lot. Apparently he’d killed himself. My mother had been a wreck for the past month. She hardly spoke and I made most of the funeral arrangements. If it weren’t for me, she would’ve died of dehydration by now.
I was dreading the day mother had to go back to work. Those days I would be alone, when normally Alan would be with me. I turned around and stepped back into bed.
Nope. Not in the mood for anything today. Why should I be? I have no reason to live. First my dad, now my brother? At least I know daddy was waiting for him by the golden gates.
I felt my heart swell a little as I imagined Alan running over a pile of clouds and jumping into my father’s arms. “What are you doing here?” he’d ask Alan. Alan would just shake his head and reply, “Sissy forgot me.”
I heard myself whimper as I curled deeper into my blankets. I didn’t want to think about Alan or dad or mom, or anyone. I rolled to the opposite side of my twin bed and pulled my laptop out of its case. I flipped it open and pulled up Word. I began to type.
Do not under estimate the sheer power of the words of a writer. I wrote. They can change your mind in the blink of an eye or the turn of a page. They can make a blind man see, and rich man realize, and a greedy sinner ask forgiveness. I thought for a second then continued. They can take you out of your world and into a new one with something as simple as walking through a wardrobe. Do not underestimate the effectiveness of a writer. They can make you change your life by a simple sad story. They can bring you to realization by a single lyric in a song. Do not underestimate the power of the stories untold or the writings of the unpublished.
An Underestimated Writer
I sighed, happy that my writing took things off my mind for a few minutes. I closed my
laptop and slid it back into its bag.
I heard knocking on the door. I groaned and pulled myself out of bed and into the living room. The person continued to knock. “Calm down! I’m coming!” I shouted as I rushed towards the door.
I swung the door open to two men in dark uniforms. “Hello little girl, is your mother home?”
“I’m not a little girl.” I snapped, “I’m almost an adult.”
“Nevertheless, is your mother home?”
I shrugged, “Back in her room I guess, probably asleep. Can you tell me what your business is here?”
The other man spoke this time. “I’m detective Ballow and this is detective Andrews.” He shifted, clearly uncomfortable for some reason, “We work for the social services.”
I shook my head, “No way. You guys are too young. Seriously who are you?”
“Ma’am, it doesn’t matter our age, we work for the services and we need to speak with your mother.” Detective Andrews said, handing me two badges.
“You guys are only twenty?” I sighed, “Dear lord. No wonder. I’ll me back.” I hand the badges back and moped to my mothers’ room. “Mom, some guys from the social services are here to see you. Probably something to do with Alan, I’m sure its no big deal.”
My mother crawled out of her large bed and walked lazily to the front door. She hadn’t worn makeup since Alan died and I couldn’t guess the last time she’d combed her hair. “Yes?” she asked in a raspy voice as she adjusted her robe.
The men looked at my mother in a weird way, “First of all ma’am, we’d like to offer our condolences. We heard about your little boy and we’re very regretting about what we’ve just been issued to do.”
“And what are you being issued to do?” my mother asked, panic winding its way into her voice.
“Ma’am, we’ve been informed that you have been in an unsocial and unhealthy mental state since the death of your son, which is understandable.” Detective Andrews began.
“But you also have another child that is not yet an adult and still needs supervision.” Ballow continued, “The department believes it would be healthier if your daughter went to live with a family member for a few months until things are cleaned up here.”
I rushed to the front door, “What?” I looked between the two men, “I’m almost eighteen! I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself until my mother is feeling better! She needs me!”
“And you should need her.” Detective Andrews said, “But she isn’t returning the emotional support that you need right now. I’m sorry Mrs. Parker, but we’re going to have to take your daughter.”
“Mom! Say something!” I exclaimed in horror.
She shook her head, “Kali, I think they might be right.”
“What?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My mother was giving me up? How could she do this to me?
Detective Ballow nodded, “Thank you for your cooperation, I will be by to collect Kali in the morning and get her on the first flight to your brothers.”
“I’m going to live with Uncle Billy?” I shouted, “He lives all the way in New Jersey!”
“I’m sorry Kali, it’s the only family member you have left.” Said Andrews.
“Surely there is somewhere closer?” my mother suggested, “A group home perhaps?”
Ballow shook his head; “It’s probably best if she went to live with her uncle. I’m sure that a group home probably isn’t the best environment for her right now.”
I looked at my mother and she looked at me sadly.
I nodded reluctantly, “Okay. I’ll go stay with my uncle.”
I couldn’t tell you how long the plane ride was. I was a bit too busy sleeping. My mom had signed papers just hours ago legally making my uncle my temporary guardian because my mother was considered ‘unstable’ in this point in her life. I couldn’t say that I disagreed, but I knew I wasn’t happy about it. I loved my uncle to death, but I loved my mother more, and Colorado is where I belong. Kay had cried in my arms for nearly a half an hour, which just made me cry more.
The social services had only allowed me to bring four suitcases and a carry along. One suitcase for shoes, two for clothes, one for miscellaneous items, and my carry along for little things like makeup and things I may need along the way. Detective Barrow and Andrews had checked my bags to be sure I wasn’t bringing drugs or weapons along with me, then loaded me onto the plane, giving my personal flight attendant all the information she needed to care for me.
The seatbelts sign had just flashed on a few moments after I had woken up. My flight attendant informed me that we’d be landing soon and I should pack up everything I had out. I quickly slid my cell phone and kindle into my bag and buckled my belt.
The plane came to a shaky land and I quickly exited to the baggage claim. I saw that I flight had taken nearly four hours as the short hand on the airport clock approached one o’clock. I pulled out the long strap on my carry along and threw it over my shoulder. With much difficulty, I managed two suitcase handles into each hand and dragged them along sideways towards the meeting station. I got about two steps before they all tumbled out of my hands. I looked down at them and growled.
“So it really is you.” A familiar voice said from behind me.
I turned around and looked up at the boy, “Kurt? What are you doing here?”
He shrugged, “Question is, what are you doing here?” he gestured awkwardly to my bags.
I sighed, “I’m going to meet my uncle and-”
“And you have four too many suitcases?” he cut in, “Where’s your flight attendant?”
I shook my head, “Probably flirting with the bag boy again.”
He smiled and ran his fingers through his long brown hair. “Well, how about you let me give you a hand there?”
I shook my head quickly, “Oh no Kurt, you don’t have to do that.”
But he already had my carry along over his shoulder and two of my blue suitcases in his hands. “You grab the purple suitcases. I’m too manly to carry purple.” He joked as I bent down to pick up my other two bags.
He walked towards the meeting station a few paces ahead of me and went straight to a long black limo. “Here you are my dear.” He said, smiling.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Well you are Kali Parker, right?” he asked.
I nodded slowly, “Yes, but my uncle is supposed to be here to collect me.”
Kurt smiled and pulled on a gray beanie, “You’re uncle is stuck at work, but he told me to tell you how sorry he was and that he’d make it up to you.”
“So he sent a limo for me?” I asked suspiciously.
Kurt nodded and pulled his jacket tighter around him. “Pretty much.” He went over and popped the limos trunk, tossing in all but my carry along.
“So what? You work for my uncle Billy or something?” I asked.
He shook his head, “No, but my dad does.”
I pursed my lips, thinking. “Okay, but I’m not getting in that car until I hear it straight from my uncle.” I walked over to Kurt and dug in my carry along he was holding. I pulled out my cell phone and dialed my uncle.
“Hello?” said a grainy voice.
“Hey kiddo!” he said excitedly, “Sorry I wasn’t able to pick you up but Harold is a really good driver and I thought you’d like to cruise in style of your first day.”
“So you did send me a limo?”
“Yeah. Cool right?”
I nodded even though he couldn’t see me, “And Kurt?”
“I sent Kurt to help you with your stuff, I figured you’d be carrying a lot of bags since it was an open ended stay.” He answered quickly.
“Oh okay.” I said, relaxing, “I was just checking. Seemed a bit fishy. I guess I’ll see you back at the house.”
“Sure thing kiddo. I know you haven’t been to the house before so Kurt will show you around. Gotta go. Love you!”
“Love you too.”
He hung up.
“Your chariot awaits.” Kurt said, opening the limos door.
I sighed and slid in onto the black leather seat. Kurt slid in after me and set my carry along between us on the bench seat. Kurt pressed a button on the door and within seconds, the limo started up.
“So,” I began awkwardly, “It seemed like you were expecting it to be me when you saw me.”
Kurt nodded, “Well yea. Your name is pretty unique and your uncle has baby pictures on the wall that looked similar. Plus when I found out why you were coming, I-” he stopped there.
“It’s alright. I understand.” I said, assuming his thoughts.
“Well, still.” He said.
I tried to lighten the mood, “Seems like you’re excited to see me.” I joked.
“More like I was amazed by what a small world this really is.” He laughed and played with the stubble on his chin.
“Oh I see, no excitement for Kali.” I said.
“Oh please.” He gave a quick mocking laugh, “That’s what you think. You’re uncle offered to pay me triple my normal salary just to help get your room ready for you.” He gave a low grin that I wouldn’t have been able to make out if it weren’t for the suns reflection off his white teeth. “The kitchen staff sent out five people to go shopping for your favorite foods and he dragged me to the girls room décor section about a bazillion times.”
“He really did all that?” I asked quietly.
Kurt nodded, “Sure did. It’s been a hectic two days. Back and forth, back and forth. Insane how much that man loves you.”
I smiled, “He usually visits one month in the summer, and him and I have the week in the middle of the month and go do something fun, just the two of us, every single day.”
I felt Kurt looking at me and shook myself out of my daze, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to ramble.”
He shook his head, “Nah. It’s fine, even though I already knew that.”
“How in the world would you already know that?”
Kurt shrugged, “I’m close with your uncle. I’ve been around him for almost three years now. He talks about you so much and I’ve always wanted to meet you.”
“Well I’m sorry that had to happen with me spilling coffee all over you.” I said.
He shook his head. “It’s fine. We’re here.”
I looked out the window as the limo slowed outside a tall iron gate. It was rusted, but also elegant looking. It attached to ten-foot tall tan walls of stone that expanded and disappeared into a crowd of trees on both sides. I figured my uncle lived in a little development; like cookie cutter houses and stuff. From my window, I could see the driver-Harold-reach out and press a button on a voice box and say, “I’m here with Ms. Parker.”
The gate swung open slowly and the limo pulled in gradually. It began down a long tan brick driveway, perfectly manicured green grass on both sides. Small trees sprouting pale yellow/orange flowers dotted along the drive all the way up to where the drive began to turn into a perfect circle. The driver steered carefully around the fountain that stood in the center of the circle, spewing water from several directions. Once the limo stopped completely, I rushed out and looked up at the huge house that stood before me. It stood tall, at least four stories. It was made of brick, with windows everywhere. The craftsmanship astonished me and I thought about how I would describe this house on paper.
Kurt dragged two bags over and sat them down, then went back to the limo and brought over the other two. “Shall we?” he asked.
I smiled and picked up my bags. “No, leave them, Harold and Barns will bring them in.”
“Oh- who are they?” I asked.
He nodded towards the limo, “Well you know Harold, and Barns is the butler.”
“The- the butler?” I said in astonishment.
Kurt laughed quietly, “Yes, surely you’d know your uncle had a butler.”
I shook my head no, “Actually, I’ve never been here. I’m not even clear on what my uncle does for a living.”
“Well, it’s cold out here, why don’t we go inside and wait for your uncle to get home?” he purposed.
“Um,” I said hesitantly, “Alright.”
The foyer was even larger than I expected and my expectations by this point were high. The foyer had a high arched ceiling that had a long chandelier dangling from it. The house looked formal and beautiful but also had a homey feel to it. If there was one thing I knew about my uncle, he was a humble family man.
“Ms. Parker?” a young woman came around the corner dressed in an ankle length black dress and a white apron.
“That’s me.” I said.
“I’m Aline.” She smiled and me and tucked her blonde hair behind her ear. She couldn’t have been more than thirty years of age, and the first person to formally introduce herself to me.
“You can call me Kali.” I said smiling.
She woman nodded, “I’m to show you to your room.”
“That’s alright Aline, I think I can take her to it.” Kurt said, grinning crookedly.
“You’re sure?” she asked.
“I’ve been there enough.” He answered.
“Well, if you need me, there are buttons all over the house. Just press it and speak into it.” She smiled and walked away.
Kurt walked ahead of me towards a magnificent staircase that hung tight against the wall, spiraling up to the second story. He jogged up the stairs, with me close behind. “There’s an elevator right inside the front door to the right, but I thought you’d like to take the more traditional route.” He said.
At the top of the stairs, the hall way had doors along the inside, but the middle fell through so you could look over a banister to the foyer below. He stopped in front of one of the doors. “Now, Kali, I present you with a magnificent bedroom that probably is worthy of the cover of Home Design magazine.” Kurt said, swinging the door open to- a set of twisted stairs.
“Whaaa…?” I mumbled.
These stairs spiraled more thickly, like the ones you’d see in a New York loft. Kurt took off up them in a quick step. I followed him as his footsteps echoed the small room of the staircase. The top of the stairs opened up into a huge loft bedroom. The room wouldn’t be in sight if you were looking at the front of the house. My room was placed in the back right corner of the huge mansion. Two huge windows took up most of the back wall, allowing me to see into the perfect-to-the-t backyard. The room was painted white with a blue stripe through the middle of the walls. Light purple curtains hung from the racks of the tall windows, but were pulled back to let light in.
On the right hand wall, a large flat screen hung from the wall and a dresser sat under it. On the left hand wall, centered perfectly was a California King bed. A Cali for Kali. I almost gasped as I looked up at the abstract painting of all colors that hung in full glory over the huge bed. I ran over and jumped onto the push white comforter of the bed, wrapping myself in the slow purple throw blanket that lay over the pillows. I looked up at the light blue ceiling and took a deep breath, relishing in these months that I’d be able to live without need.
“So I assume you like it?” Kurt asked, plopping into a creatively shaped purple loveseat that sat caddy-cornered by the windows.
“Like it? I love it!” I exclaimed, I twisting from the grasp of my furry blanket.
Kurt played with the fluff of a furry blue pillow and smiled out at the yard, “Good. Your uncle will be happy to hear that.”
I climbed off the bed and walked over to the dresser drawers, pulling them open, hoping to see a whole new wardrobe. To my disappointment, all I saw was the bottom of the wood drawer. “Maybe you and I can go shopping for some new clothes for you later.” He purposed.
“You’re going to go shopping with me?” I laughed.
“Don’t call it shopping.” He stood up and shrugged, “Call it… a date.”
I laughed humorlessly, “A date?”
“You want to go on a date with me?” I said in disbelief.
“Yeah, tomorrow perhaps?”
“Kali!” my uncle shouted from the doorway.
I instantly forgot everything I was saying and took off running to my uncle. “Billy!” I shouted, leaping into his arms.
“Kiddo!” he said happily.
I pulled away and looked at my uncle’s perfect face, “I’m seventeen; you don’t have to call me kiddo anymore.”
He smiled and rubbed his goatee, “I think that’s going to be hard to get used to.” He sighed, “Hmm. Kali. YUCK! Too boring.”
I punched his chest playfully. “You’re right, besides it’ll probably change to Kali-roni or Kali-fornia by the end of my stay. Let’s keep kiddo.”
He smiled and hugged me again. Uncle Billy was my favorite uncle out of both my mom and my dad sides. My mom and her sisters were all about forty or so, but my uncle Billy was twenty-five. We were eight years apart, but since guys are mentally behind females, we got along pretty good, but he could still play the parent roll like a pro.
“So, what do you think of the place?” he asked, rubbing his hands together.
I pulled my coat off and tossed it on the bed, “It’s magnificent, but I thought you were just a contractor?”
Kurt laughed from the corner of the room. “RIGHT.”
Billy laughed, “Yes Kali, I was a contractor, but for almost five years, I’ve been the proud owner of Barilla Industries, one of the largest contracting companies in America.”
I rolled over and was prepared to yell for my mom when I realized I was still at my uncles. I stretched and pulled the covers tighter around me in my California king. I snuggled down deeper and deeper thankful that I was able to freely roll around without falling over the side. I let out a loud sigh, when suddenly something hit me in the head. “Um, ouch?” I squeaked, sitting up in bed.
Kurt smiled at me. “Hey there sleepy head.”
I gave him a sideways look and managed my best scowl. “What do you want?” I looked at my clock, “It’s seven in the morning.”
Kurt made his way next to my bed and lightly tugged at my chub-cheeks. “Don’t scowl so early in the morning, your face will freeze that way.” Again, I heard the accent in his voice. I still couldn’t tell if it was British or Irish. “Billy says you need to get ready for school.” Kurt said.
“School?” I cried helplessly, slamming the pillow over my face.
Kurt ripped it out of my grasp, “Billy thinks it will take your mind off things, and he already enrolled you.” He walked over to one of my suitcases I had placed on my purple loveseat; he opened it and pulled out a pair of jeans and a shirt. “Here” He tossed them to me, “Get dressed and be ready by eight.”
I crawled out of bed and picked up the clothes, “Fine, but I’m not wearing this, do you not know how to match?” I asked, shaking the orange skinny jeans and blue t-shirt in his face.
He tossed his hands up in surrender, “Okay, okay. Just get ready.” He said, walking towards the door.
“We’re not taking the limo!” I shouted, but he was already half way down my stairs.
I emerged from my loft bedroom in the same orange skinnies, a loose gray sweatshirt that said NYC across the front, and a pair of white faded combat boots. I’d splashed on a little makeup and sprayed my hair with lots of hairspray after a quick shower and I felt… good. Pretty. It’s been awhile since I’d felt good about myself.
I walked down the stairs and realized I didn’t know were the kitchen was, and I would have liked to down a bowl of cereal with my extra fifteen minutes. I looked around and decided I could make it. I walked through the little archway next to the staircase and emerged into what looked like a formal living room. Just off the living room, there was a small hallway. I wandered back through it and came to a door. I lightly pushed through and immediately heard the clatter of pans hitting the floor. A middle aged man, extremely skinny and jumpy came around the corner and adjusted a tall chefs hat on his head, “Ms. Parker? What are you doing back here?”
I looked around the restaurant worthy kitchen, “I just- wanted something to eat before school.”
The man smiled and clumsily made his way over to the stove, “Would you like an omelet or something more higher end? I’m sorry ma’am, I’ve been out for a few weeks, and I wasn’t informed on your eating habits.”
“I- I’ll just eat a bowl of cereal. D-do you have cereal?” I asked.
The man smiled, “Oh yes of course.”
I downed my food and made my way out of the mansion by 8:01. I walked out to Kurt leaning against a shiny pale red Jeep. “Nice Jeep.” I said.
“It’s not mine.” Kurt says. “It was your uncles.”
“Yep.” Kurt tossed a set of keys at me, “Yours now.”
“M-mine?” I asked in disbelief.
“Y-y-y-yours.” Kurt mocked jokingly. He grinned at me sideways. I was starting to like that smile.
I took the keys and ran to the driver’s side, jumping in without a thought. I’d always loved my Jeep and my uncle knew it. I hated that I had to leave it behind in Colorado. I pushed the key in and the ignition rumbled to life. “Off we go.” I said.
Kurt pointed me in the direction of Jefferson High School as we drove through my uncles little New Jersey town. “Slow down for gosh sakes. You trying to get us killed?” Kurt asked from the passenger seat.
I stopped the Jeep at a red light and pushed my sunglasses lower on my nose, looking at him over the rims, “Will you shush and let me drive?”
He threw his hands up in surrender and I pushed my glasses back up, pressing down the Jeeps gas towards JHS. I could see it from a mile away. The school was huge, most of the front was a three story tall wall of glass that was only see through if you were close up like in skyscrapers. “Dayum.” I whispered as we approached JHS.
“Right?” Kurt said, “The school is freaking huge.”
I stepped out of my Jeep in student parking and pulled my shoulder bag out after me. It reminded me of Kay and me back home. Kurt walked around the other side and playfully tossed his arm over my shoulder, “Kali, welcome to JHS, where the you’re either a jock, a prep, a nerd, a weirdo, or just a b****.” He walked ahead of me and began walking backwards so he could face me, “Not even joking. High school lives up to its stereotypes.”
“So where do I fall in?” I asked.
I punched him in the shoulder, “You’re such an…” I trailed off.
“Such a what?” he asked, grinning.
“Such a klutz right after you fall in that pothole for trying to walk backwards.” I sneered, looking at the ground behind him.
Kurt stopped and twisted around to look at the ground. I bumped him and he stumbled but didn’t fall.
“Hmm.” I said, “I think this is the first time I’ve seen you be unsmooth.”
Kurt pulled into a step beside me, “So you admit that I’m smooth?”
“Ha! I didn’t say that.” I said, climbing up the stairs to the front of the huge school.
“You kind of did.” He said, pulling the door open for me.
“How old are you anyways?” I said, changing the subject.
“Why are you in high school? Shouldn’t you have graduated?” I asked.
“I have to explain this like everyday.” Kurt took a deep breath, “My birthday is the day before the allowed day of kindergarten registration, so yeah, bit behind in age.”
I nodded, “Oh.”
In the lobby of the school, students bustled around and hardly paid me any mind. Suddenly, I felt very self-conscience. Most of the students here were dressed in name brands and looking stylish. I was dressed in clothes I’d found in Goodwill and made into my version of stylish. Most of the girls had perfect hair and were perfectly groomed. I- on the other hand, had my hair crunchy with hairspray and purposely messy. It was a common look back home: Imperfection.
A group of girls walked by, eying me down like a pack of angry wolves.
There was a huddle of boys by a set of lockers, wearing letterman jackets.
There was a bunch of girls around a locker; fixing makeup and gossiping.
There were a couple of kids in the center, where jeans like they were trudging around in a flood. Most of them were holding large game tablets.
A small group of kids in a dark corner scowled at me as I turned to Kurt.
“You weren’t kidding, were you?” I asked through gritted teeth.
He shook his head and smiled at me, “Not at all. Fortunately, there are loads of normal people here too.”
I smiled at a scary looking girl, “Okay, so where am I supposed to be?” I asked through the clenched teeth of a fake smile.
Kurt put his hands on my shoulders and moved his thumbs in slow circles, “Just relax Kali, it’s going to be okay. Trust me.”
I took a breath and gripped my bag tightly as Kurt walked me through the crowded halls. He dropped his hands from my shoulders as we approached the office door. “Alright,” he said, “Go in there, tell them your name and they’ll get you your schedule.”
I nodded nervously.
“I’ll be right here once you come out.” Kurt said, like I was a child going in to get my first shot by myself.
I walked in to the front desk where a bird-looking woman greeted me with a bitter nod. “Um, Kali Parker.” I said, nibbling my bottom lip in anticipation, “I’m here to pick up my schedule.”
“Okay.” The woman said, typing something into her computer, “Can you please provide me with some authentication information?”
I nodded, “Yes of course.”
“Your last school?”
“JFK high school.” I answered.
“Andrea-” I caught myself quickly, “I mean, Billy Barilla.”
“You mean William Barilla?”
I nodded, “Oh yes of course.”
“One last thing, I need the first four numbers that is located on your JFK identification card.”
I nodded and reached into my bag, pulling my card out. “Um, 2483.”
The bird-woman nodded, “Okay dear.” She pulled out a folder from under her desk. “This folder should have all of the information you need since you’re starting mid-year. It should have all the club and extra curricular information, your schedule, and anything else you may need.” She gave a false smile, “Do you have someone to help you around? I can find someone with a similar schedule to yours if you’d like.”
I shook my head, “Oh no, that’s fine I have someone.” I smiled and walked out of the office quickly. Kurt was waiting there, as promised.
He smiled at me, “Good?”
I waved the file folder around, “Good.”
“Alright, let’s get you to your first class.” He purposed.
I shook my head, “Kurt, my room numbers are on here, if need be I can find them myself, you don’t need to walk with me.”
Kurt grinned at me crookedly and I felt myself shiver, “Your first class is near mine.” He reach up and took my hand, dragging me away from the door.
Once clear of the morning crowd, Kurt, almost to my disappointment, let go of my hand and fell into a steady step just ahead of me. Students eyed me as I walked through the halls nervously. Every once in awhile, there was a catcall or a whistle, which just made me step closer and closer to Kurt. He stopped outside a door that was decorated for the Chinese New Year. “Your first period class.” Kurt said, turning to me.
“History? Mrs. Fresnel?” I asked.
He nodded, “Sure is.”
“Hello Kurt.” A woman said from just inside room 156.
“Hello Mrs. Fresnel.” Kurt said, “This is Kali, a new student.”
Mrs. Fresnel, a young red head woman smiled at me, “Hello Kali.”
“Hi.” I said quietly.
Kurt pulled Mrs. Fresnel over out of my earshot and said something to her while I stood awkwardly outside her classroom door. Mrs. Fresnel walked back and went straight back to where she was standing. Kurt smiled at her and then at me. “Alright Mrs. Fres, you take care of this girl, okay? Or else her uncle will have my head on a platter.”
She laughed, “Of course Kurt.”
Kurt pulled me to him and lightly kissed my cheek. I flinched and felt my face heat up as I turned and rushed straight into Mrs. Fresnel’s history class.
“Alright class,” Mrs. Fresnel, announced, “In the last twenty minutes, I’d like to play a clip on trench warfare.” She walked to the front of the class and clicked the play button on the remote.
The video began with boring facts on the war that I had already learned two months ago at JFK. Finally, it actually got to the trench warfare. It opened with gunfire and the shouts of soldiers. Running to help each other as man after man fell.
I felt my head began to spin. The gunshots continued, the man kept racing to their helpless friends as they died off in their arms… like Alan had. I felt my breathing pick up. The men began shouting for the help of the injured as my hearing began to contort and fade in and out. I felt vile rise in my throat as my stomach wrenched and twisted.
“Kali?” I heard my teachers voice faintly through my heavy breathing, “Kali are you okay?”
My eyes moved faster than I was able to process, my vision got sloppy and I felt myself begin to wheeze and breath faster and heavier. I felt wetness on my cheeks and I even looked up momentarily to see if it was raining. The gunshots rung louder through the classroom as I began to scream and clamped my hands over my ears. “Turn it off for god sakes!” I heard a student yell.
I slid out of my seat and leaned against the wall across from me. I screamed without meaning to. The gunshots wouldn’t stop. They rang in my ears as the desperate cries of children started… like the day I’d shown up at the elementary school… and the children on the front lawn cried as they reached for me and held each other for comfort. I thought of the little blond girl with the bunny and Alan’s little body slumped in my arms. I screamed louder and louder as these images played through my mind.
Then, the gunshots stopped. My vision cleared. My head stopped spinning, and I was on the floor in my first period history class. Kurt was crouched in front of me, pushing hair out of my eyes and talking to me in hushed tones. When I saw him, I immediately tossed myself into his arms and started crying like a baby, as if I already wasn’t crying hard enough.
“Shhh. Shhh. Angel, calm down.” Kurt whispered, running his fingers through my dark hair. “Let’s go. Let’s get you out of here.”
I nodded in his chest as he picked me up wedding style and carried me out of the classroom.
“Shhh,” Kurt stroked my hair and lightly touched my cheek, “Angel, please calm down."
My breathing was still ragged from crying and as far as I knew, I was crying, but tears weren’t falling.
Kurt had taken me to the Jeep and set me in the passenger seat. He was now leaning against the passenger side door, trying to calm me down.
“A-Alan.” I whimpered.
“I know Kali, I know.” He whispered, lightly tracing circles on the top of my hand.
“I- I want to go home. Please.” I begged.
He nodded, “Of course, of course. Just let me go inside and tell them I’m leaving and why.”
I nodded and sat back in my seat, trying to regulate my breathing as Kurt ran up to the school. My breathing got normal, but still came out jumpy. I buckled myself in and pulled my knees up to my chest, snuggling my face into the crook.
Kurt jumped into the Jeep and silently started it up, pulling it out of the school and towards the house.
We pulled in and Kurt shut off the Jeep. “You okay?"
“Do I look okay?” I snapped.
“I’m sorry, Kali.” He whispered.
I shook my head, “It’s not your fault,” I wiped under my eyes, “I’m just a wreck lately… a lot of stuff take it off my mind, but some things just bring it back too quickly.”
He smiled over at me. “Then let’s do something to take your mind off things.”
I sniffled, “Like what?”
“Um,” he stroked his stubble, “How about that shopping trip?”
I smiled through my puffy eyes, “I don’t have any money.”
He shrugged, “Just use the card your uncle gave you.”
I looked at him confused, “What card?”
Kurt rolled his eyes and took my bag from me. “Hey!” I called as his unzipped the front pocket. He pulled out a little change purse I hadn’t seen before. He unzipped it and pulled out three cards. One was a JHS identification card, one was my driver’s license, and the other was a visa.
He handed it to me, “$400 maximum a day.” He said.
“Dude, that’s my whole allowance in a year back home.” I said, snatching the card out of his hands.
“Don’t you have a job?”
I shook my head, “Mom won’t let me.”
“Oh.” He said quietly as he started the Jeep up. “Well, let’s go.”
Kurt pulled into the Cape May Mall a little after noon. “Let’s do some shopping.” He said unenthusiastically.
“You don’t sound too excited.” I said, slipping out of the Jeep.
“That I’m going to be dragged around in a bunch of girly stores?” He said, “Not exactly the highlight of my life.”
“You didn’t have to come.” I said as we started across the parking lot.
“You don’t know your way around Cape May yet. I had to come.” He said, smirking slightly.
“I should smack that smirk right off your face.” I said only half joking.
“Ouch,” he said, pretending to be wounded by my words, “I thought we were all friends here.”
“I hardly know you Mr. Kurt.” I said matter-of-factly, “Have you already declared us friends?”
He nodded, “I’d like to think so.” He paused, “And it’s Mathews.”
“What is Mathews?”
“You said ‘Mr. Kurt’… I may be mistaken, but I believe the proper term is Mr. Mathews, Ms. Parker.” He corrected.
“Shut up Mathews.” I said. I hoped he couldn’t hear the way my smirk practically leaked into my voice.
After an hour of dragging Kurt in and out of Sears, Rue 21, and about 900 other girly stores, I decided to end our little shopping trip.
“Okay. I think I have enough clothes to make up for my suitcases.” I said, looking at the bags I was holding and the ones I’d piled onto Kurt’s arms.
“Oh THANK GOD!” he practically shouted as he bee-lined it to the doors.
I laughed as I tried to speed walk to keep close behind him.
Kurt pulled the Jeep down the curvy back roads of Cape May. I sighed as we passed a small ugly green house for the fifth time. “Are you sure you know where we’re at?”
“Of course I do. This is a shortcut- I told you that.” He answered.
I turned to him, “This is the fifth time we’ve passed that stupid little reject of a house.”
“Hey, don’t take your anger out on the house.” He snapped.
I was going to punch him.
“Is there a map in here?” I asked.
He nodded, “Try the glove box.”
I opened it and sighed in relief as I pulled out large map and unfolded it. “What road are we on?” I asked.
I searched the map, “I don’t see it.”
“Cape May isn’t that big, and the maps you buy around here just focus on this general area.” He said.
I groaned as I read the map title, “This is a map for CANCUN!” I shouted.
“Well I’m sorry your uncle keeps maps of Nevada in his jeep!” Kurt retorted.
I slammed my palm to my face, “CANCUN IS IN MEXICO YOU IDIOT!”
“Well, this is the last time I try to take a shortcut with you in the car!” Kurt complained.
I tossed the map in the back seat, “Good! It’s not like I asked for us to take a short cut!”
That stupid, attractive, idiot.
“Stop and ask for directions.” I ordered quietly.
“Why not?” I demanded.
He threw his arms up, “Because I can get us home!”
I rolled my eyes and sat back in my seat. “Try to find another map.” Kurt demanded nearly soundlessly.
I sighed and felt under the passenger seat. Nothing. I unbuckled and set a knee on the center console, trying to drag myself between the two seats, but my belt caught on the lining of the leather seat.
“Move your big butt! I can’t see to my right!” Kurt complained.
“Hey!” I kicked him with the tip of my foot, “I’m trying! Give me a break here!”
I grabbed the back seat and yanked myself through, landing awkwardly with my knees on the floorboard and my chin on the seat. I pulled myself up, trying to keep myself from screaming in frustration.
Gathering up what composure I had left, I felt under the bench seat and pulled out an old shoebox. I pulled the lid off and tossed it over the back seat. In the box, there were road flares, matches, a lighter, a pocketknife, and a couple maps. “Yes.” I cooed.
I gathered the large bundle of maps in my arms and tossed them into the passenger seat before jumping back over the console. “Found some?” Kurt asked.
“Didn’t you hear my coo of victory?” I asked.
“Just check the maps.”
I pulled out the first map: Mount Pleasant, Michigan. I tossed it into the backseat. I pulled out another: Denver, Colorado. I smiled a bit at that one before I tossed it into the back seat. I looked at the next map, Cape May, New Jersey. “Whoop, whoop.” I squeaked.
“You found a map?”
“Yeah.” I said, unfolding the map and holding it out.
“Let me see it.” Kurt insisted.
“No!” I cried, “I’m the navigator.” I sighed, “Okay, where are we now?”
“Okay.” I ran my finger down the road. “Take the next left.”
Kurt jerked the steering wheel to the side to make the sudden turn. “Now what?”
“Take the next right and that road should open up by that farm next to Billy’s house.”
Kurt did as told. The next right was a dirt road. “Are you sure this is right?”
I looked over the map again, “Yeah, definitely. It’s a shortcut I think.”
“Remember where shortcuts got us before?”
“Shush up Mathews, just drive.”
So, he drove. And drove. And drove. And drove until the dirt road turned more into sand than dirt. Kurt hit the breaks suddenly and put the Jeep in park. “Obviously we’re going the wrong way! It’s been almost a half an hour!"
“The map says it shouldn’t be this long!” I shouted back.
“Give me the map miss navigator.” Kurt demanded.
I handed the map to him, and he looked over it, sighing loudly. “Um, Kali?” he said gingerly.
“You read wrong. That was Mardens Street! Not Madison!” he shouted, “You’ve taken us clear out by the beach!”
“That’s not a bad thing! That means we’ll be able to find people and ask for help!” I shouted hopefully.
He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, “Kali?”
“Oh my gosh, what?” I snapped.
“What’s todays date?”
I groaned, “Who cares?”
“What’s todays date?” he repeated.
“January fifth! Why?”
Then it hit me. It was January. We were on the east coast. Nobody was going to be at the beach. I groaned out loud. “Just keep driving.”
Kurt started the Jeep up and pressed on the gas, but we didn’t move. “Why aren’t we moving?” I asked.
“I don’t know Einstein, maybe we’re stuck.” He snapped, jumping out of the Jeep.
“Who crapped in your cornflakes this morning?” I mumbled, hopping out after him.
He was outside, lightly kicking the tires. “Get in and try the gas.”
I pulled myself into the Jeep and pressed the gas. The tires just spun in the moist sand. Kurt moved to the back and began to push as I slammed the gas. The tires continued to spin. Kurt ran up and jumped into the passenger seat. “Gosh, it’s like… negative twenty degrees out there.” He complained, rubbing his arms. “Anyways, it’s not looking too bright. The Jeep is stuck in the moist sand and just sinks whenever we try to move it.” He sighed, “It’s getting darker sooner, so I think we should get to stepping.”
“Wait- we’re walking home?” I exclaimed.
“Yeah princess.” Kurt pulled his thick leather jacket on, “So slip off your heels and let’s go.”
“Seriously. Who crapping in your cornflakes this morning?” I slipped into my furry coat. “You’re all snippy now.”
“Sorry angel,” he smirked, “Guess shopping just kind of dropped my mood.”
“You suggested it.” I mumbled, shoving the map into my bag. “Do you have any cell service out here?”
“If I did, do you think we’d be walking?”
I threw my hands up in surrender, “Sorry. Just figured I’d double check.”
We walked for several hours in silence. My legs were hurting and it was getting dark out. I let out an over-exaggerated groan. “You alright Parker?”
“Just peachy Mathews. Just freakin’ peachy.”
“Look!” he shouted suddenly, “Look Kali!”
“What? What is it?” I shouted excitedly.
It was a small victory, considering we were still probably miles from home, but I still smiled. Kurt slung his arm around my shoulder and let out a quiet laugh of relief as we stepped onto the blacktop. It was uncomfortably cold out, but wasn’t too bad since we’d just walked a couple miles. I smiled again as I noticed I had cell bars now.
I unlocked my screen and dialed Billy’s number.
“Hello?” a panicked voice said quickly.
“Uncle Billy? It’s me, Kali.”
“Where have you been? It’s almost six o’clock! It got dark a half an hour ago!”
“Sorry, I know I probably freaked you out, but the Jeep broke down and I didn’t have cell service. Can you come get us?”
“Yeah, Kurt and I.”
“Oh- I didn’t know he was with you.” He paused, “Where are you?”
I looked up at the nearest street sign, “Short Row Drive.”
“Alright. Twenty minutes, start walking down that road.”
“Okay. See you soon."
He hung up. I forced a half-hearted smile at Kurt, “My uncle is on his way to get us.”
Kurt nodded and crouched down.
“What?” I asked.
“Do you want me to carry you or not? Hop on.”
I smiled to myself and climbed onto Kurt’s back, resting my cheek on the top of his head. And we started walking down Short Row.
I woke up the next morning bright and early. I showered, got dressed and was downstairs by 7:30. I caught my uncle on his way out the door.
“Morning Billy.” I chirped.
“Um, hi Kali?”
“Why you say it like that?” I asked.
“Didn’t Kurt tell you that you aren’t going back to school yet?”
I was utterly taken aback. Just because I had a little meltdown in class yesterday? “What? Why?”
“You’re just not ready for it yet Kali.” Billy said, “I’ve arranged for some online classes for you to take for two hours a day so that you won’t be completely behind. And your old school emailed this school your progress reports. Apparently back home you’re further along in your learning than here, so they’re not so worried that you might miss a week or two.”
That’s when I realized, “I made myself look like a total fool yesterday.”
Billy smiled over at me, “No sweetheart, you didn’t. They all know what happened and have nothing but sympathy for you.”
“I’m so tired of sympathy!” I shouted.
He nodded. “I have to go kiddo. But at least you’ll have Kurt to keep you company.”
Of course I had Kurt. Because Kurt was everywhere I was anymore. I didn’t get a second without him, “What about his schooling?”
“He volunteered to take the online classes with you.” He looked at his watch, “I really gotta run Kali. See you later. Love you.”
“Love you too.”
Then he left.
I downed some pancakes made by the kitchens chef (who I found out was named Will) and decided I’d get to know the house a little better. I wandered up the stairs again and was sure to knock on each hall door before I opened it.
The first room contained a bunch of old furniture covered in plastic sheets to keep from collecting dust. I walked in, it was really nothing special, but I liked it for some reason. Maybe it was because the room was more elegant than modern. The trim around the faint tan walls was a polished gold color, shaped into waves like you’d see in an ocean. I walked over to one of the pieces of furniture and whipped off the cover. I gasped as a white baby grand piano emerged from the dust of its old glory. It was beautiful. I played a little piano, and even a little guitar for almost seven years now and I’d never seen such a beautiful instrument. I didn’t want to play it though. I felt like this was someone else’s and they wouldn’t want such a wonderful tampered with. I turned around to one of the two windowless walls. Only then did I notice the ginormous tan sheet that huge over it, making it blend in with the other walls. I reach up, and pulled as hard as I could on the sheet. It fell like in a movie, and landed square on top of me. The walls in this room were double the height of an average house wall, so that sheet was pretty huge.
I threw it off of myself and gaped as I looked up at the mural that was painted on this wall. It was a representation of Life. I knew it immediately. There was a suburban road right down the center, lined with houses on either side. Each house had a character experiencing a new stage in life. Outside one house, a man and woman were holding each other, representing new marriage. Another house had a young woman holding a child, which meant childbirth. There was an old woman crying on one of the porches, which I assumed meant death or loss. There were many more, but there was one that caught my eye.
There was a teenage girl, probably about sixteen sitting on the sidewalk. Her legs were leaned to one side, and she was smiling intently in that direction. But there was nothing there for her to smile at. The mural faded out at this point, but I was able to make out the beginning of a knee and leg leaning towards her. The artist had never finished the piece. This part particularly tugged at my heartstrings. Why wasn’t the girl able to experience her piece of the puzzle? It wasn’t fair. I had a sudden urge to finish it. I, as well as with writing, was rather talented with a pad and pencils, how much different could a paintbrush be?
I sighed in defeat and began heading towards the door. I slipped out silently and headed towards the next room.
In the second room was considerably smaller than it’s neighbor. But I wasn’t exactly excited I found more covered furniture. I didn’t waste time this time. I walked quickly over to the biggest piece and ripped off the cover. I gasped as I looked at the hand carved baby crib. Its white wood was perfect and unmarked other than the layers of dust. That’s when I remembered… my uncle had a wife. I’d only met her once when I was little. We were invited to her wedding and I was the flower girl. I was only five, and I hadn’t heard any news about her until I was fifteen. My mother told me that uncle Billy’s wife had died in childbirth, and they didn’t get the baby out fast enough.
This was my cousin’s nursery.
I remembered going to the funeral. They’d told me that she’d ruptured something from pushing to fast and too hard. They said she was holding her breath as she pushed, so it put even more pressure on her innards. I didn’t know my aunt all that well, so I didn’t really cry. I hadn’t known the child either, but just the sight of such a small casket made me burst into tears.
I quickly bee-lined it out of that room before all the memories of Alan’s tiny casket came back.
I walked into the hallway, then without bothering to knock this time, opened the next door.
“Oh shoot! I’m sorry!” I shouted, quickly turning around.
“It’s okay Kali, I was just changing my shirt.” Kurt said from behind me.
I let out a relieved breath and turned around. Kurt smiled at me crookedly as he ran his hands through his hair.
“Sorry about that.” I mumbled.
“No problem.” He said. “So, should todays lesson be learning how to knock?”
I playfully punched his shoulder, “Of course not. I knocked at the last two rooms, and they were all empty to I just assumed this one would be too.”
Kurt shrugged, “Nah, this is my magnificent bedroom.”
“You share it?” I asked, gesturing to the other bed.
“Yeah, with my dad.” He said.
There was an awkward silence, then I sighed, “So, I guess we should get to those morning lessons.”
“Yeah.” He said, trying to act casual despite the awkward silence of nothing to talk about.
After two hours of online courses, I was ready to collapse. It was worse than school! You had to read everything and they just expected you to understand it! How stupid was that?
Kurt stood up and stretched his arms over his head, it reminded me of a cat.
I was in a bit of a chipper mood suddenly so I said, “Hey does my uncle have like… and indoors swimming pool or something?”
Kurt laughed, “No Kali, sadly he does not.”
“Dang it.” I said, “I’m in a really good mood and I don’t want to waste it lying around all day.”
“Well what do you normally do in a day?”
He grunted. Clearly I was being a bother to him.
“Okay.” He said, “What do you do on the weekends?”
I shrugged, “Sometimes I go to parties, but not very often. I do a lot of ice skating and writing mostly.”
“Then let’s go ice skating.” Kurt offered.
I gave him a sideways look, “You know how to ice skate?”
“Well, I don’t like to toot my own horn,” he said, “but I was on a junior hockey team when I was nine.”
I laughed, “That was ten years ago.”
“Please.” He said in a girly voice, “I still got skill.”
I nodded, “Okay. We’ll see. I’m going to go get my skates.”
Kurt took me out to my uncle’s back yard and walked me over to a pond. “This thing is frozen solid. The dog likes to play on it and he doesn’t fall through. He probably weighs more than you, so you’re good.”
“You guys have a dog?”
“Three.” He answered, “A Saint Bernard, a German Shepard, and a poodle.”
“Is it hideous?” I asked.
He shrugged, “Maybe a little.”
I sighed and sat down in the snow and began fastening on my skates. “How comes it’s snow back here but not out front?”
“You ask a lot of questions.”
“I want to know a lot of things.”
He sighed over-dramatically, “Well if you must know, we snow blow the front yard so it looks pretty all year round.”
“I think the snow is pretty.” I commented.
He nodded, “Same here.”
I tied my last loop and managed myself onto the ice, “Come along Mr. 9-year-old-hockey player. Let’s see what you can do.”
I made slow and steady circles on the ice with my blades as Kurt pulled himself up onto his feet. He was wearing the thicker blades like they use in hockey for better balance. I was wearing my old figure skating blades. Yep. You heard it. Figure skater. Nine time grand champ back in Denver. And I was about to show hockey boy up.
Kurt managed his skates to a point where he could stand in a single spot. He smiled in honor of his little accomplishment. “Now all you have to do is skate!” I chirped, as I began to make speedy circles around him on my skates.
He looked at my feet, “Oh no way! Never mind! You’re way to good at this I can tell!”
I grabbed him as he began making his way back to the snow bank. “Oh no you don’t.” I said, “You’ll be fine, I mean come on. I’m not that good. I’ve just skated a little back in Colorado.”
He gave me a weird look and made his way back to the ice, gradually starting to move a little more. He skated backwards and did a little circle. “Whoop.” He called, “I think I’m better than you.”
I smiled and pulled my scarf tighter around my neck as the cold air nipped at me, then mocked what he’d just done, but executed more grace in my technique.
His face formed to a scowl, “You knew you could one-up me didn’t you?”
I nodded, laughing.
“So what is it?” he asked, “You a women’s hockey star? A skating penguin hunter?”
I shook my head, “Nine time grand champion figure skater back in Colorado in 2010.”
“So it’s been three years since you skated?”
I nodded reluctantly.
“You just do everything don’t you?” Kurt added, “Skater, writer, guitar player, piano player, artist-”
“Wait!” I said, cutting him off, “How did you know I played instruments and drew?”
He shrugged, “Your uncle told me.”
“Damn Billy.” I said, “He’s such a loud mouth. Can’t he let me introduce myself?”
Kurt laughed, “Billy is the time to work ahead. That’s why he’s so successful.”
I looked back at the giant house, “He sure is.”
“He was spot on about you though. Everything he told me was right.” He added.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“He said you’re defensive, which was right.”
“I am not defensive!”
“He said you had mood swings, which was right.”
“Only when I’m around you, because you’re just as bad as me.”
“He said you were quick as a whip, which was right.”
“He said you were pretty…”
“I am no-” I froze in my sentence. I hadn’t expected him to say that.
“…Which was right.” He finished.
I tucked my hair behind my ear, “W-what else did he say?”
Kurt took a shaky breath, “He said you were the nervous type, but you handled pressure well.”
I just nodded at the ground.
“And he said… that you keep your feelings all bottled up inside.”
I looked up at that. What was he getting at?
I stood up quickly and unhooked the skis off my boots so I could walk. “I-I think I need to go inside.”
Kurt nodded and bent down to unhook his one skate, but fell and hit his head on the ice, hard. I rushed over to him, but when I was about two steps away from him, I heard a crack, and the ice at my feet broke through, taking me with it.
Cold water rushed up my clothing and soaked me in seconds. I felt fear ripple through me like a wave of currents as I realized that Kurt wouldn’t be able to break through the ice to get to me. It was too thick in most places. I swallowed gulps of cold, dirty water as I searched desperately for the hole in the ice. But panic was taking over. I couldn’t find it and I was freaking out too bad with fear of drowning to feel for it.
I ran out of air. I’d already swallowed at least three mouthfuls of water and counting. I felt the world start to blur… and everything faded.
I woke up to the yelling of multiple people. I heard Kurt first and foremost. He was yelling and trying to give me mouth-to-mouth. I couldn’t feel his hands pressing down on my chest and I couldn’t feel as the ambulance people lifted me onto a stretcher. But I could see. I think my eyes were open, because they kept trying to talk to me, but the voices were muffled.
“Kali.” A woman in a medical uniform said, “Kali, stay with us. Try to talk to Kurt. He’s going to ride with you.”
I heard Kurt’s voice again, “Kali? Kali I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for you to fall through. I thought it was thick enough.”
“I-it’s…” I swallowed hard to quench my dry throat. “Water.” I whispered.
Kurt nodded and a medical assistant poured some water in my mouth. I chugged it down gratefully. But I still felt weak. My muscles were numb and my wet hair was plastered to my head, making me irritable. I tried to smile at Kurt as the edges of my vision splattered with black that would soon consume me in darkness.
To know darkness is to know reality. We all know it’s there; we just don’t want to face it. But when you’re forced to face it… what do you do? Facing the darkness has nothing to do with being afraid, but has everything to do with facing your fear. Coming face to face with reality. When sitting in darkness is like lying in bed at night. It’s a time where you think, but unfortunately, your mind seems to focus more when there is nothing to look at. When a topic gets in your head, you can’t seem to push it away. No matter how hard you try.
I was forced to face the things I’d been hiding from.
All the things I’d been trying not to think about were suddenly a reality. Throwing myself into my writing to take my real world away wasn’t going to help. I suppose that I thought if I just kept writing; I could act like it wasn’t really happening. I could act like it would all come to an end, because every story comes to an end. And everyone knows that any good book has a happy ending.
But that’s not life.
Life doesn’t have fairy tale endings. And no matter how much I write, read, paint, or skate, nothing will last forever and nothing can take away those memories forever. They were permanently etched into my timeline and unless this coma wiped my memory, I would always remember it. I would always remember how small Alan’s casket was. I would always remember how much my mother cried when they lowered it into the ground. I would always remember the girl in the hospital with her baby and I would never forget the glass room. The memories of those horrifying days would never fade.
But I had to live with it.
I knew that it might have weakened me. And I am still weak. Facing so much in such a short amount of time has been a lot for me to take. But I was still alive. I was still living my life. My brother wouldn’t have wanted me to sulk in all of this. He’d want me to grow up and have enough of a life for the both of us. In my days in the darkness, God helped me realize that. He showed me that it was time. I had had my time to mourn. Now it was my time to heal. I knew it was going to be a long difficult process, and I would break a few times, but I would get there eventually. It was time for me to start facing reality. It was time for me to wake up.
Then my eyes opened.
I sat up in bed and looked around the room. It was empty; accept for someone sitting in an ugly yellow/orange armchair and someone sleeping on the visitors benches covered in a light blanket. I sat up and rubbed my throbbing head. What had happened?
Then I remembered. The ice. The water. The ambulance. It all came back. Too fast. I flopped back in bed and let out on exaggerated groan. Kind of like one of those ‘you have go to be kidding me’ groans.
The person in the armchair sat up and looked over. It was Kurt. He looked as if he hadn’t slept in days. Dark circles were curved under his brown eyes and his hair was messy and ragged. But he smiled. Jumping up, and ran over to my bedside and sat down, taking my hand. “Thank God.” He whispered.
I nodded and smiled at him, “Thank God indeed.”
We sat in silence for a moment.
“It’s been almost a week.” He finally whispered.
“It felt longer than that.” I confessed.
“For us too.” He said, playing with my fingers.
“Is that Billy?” I asked, nodding towards the bench.
Kurt nodded; “Yeah, he showed up the night after-” he stopped short.
He didn’t answer. Then I realized why. I froze and ripped my hand from his grasp and shoved it under the covers.
“What were those?” He demanded through gritted teeth.
“Just an accident.”
I didn’t say anything. He pulled my arm out from under the blue office blankets and turned it in his hands, examining my scars. “Kali, you can’t do this to yourself.”
“I was just angry.”
“Some of these are new.” He observed, “H-have you done this since you’ve been here?”
I just nodded.
“Promise me you won’t do this again. I don’t ever want to see another self-inflicted mark on your wrist or anywhere else.”
I nodded again, shamefully.
“Oh my God! She’s awake?” Billy called from the other side of the room. “Why didn’t you wake me?”
“She just woke up.” Kurt answered.
I smiled at my uncle, “I’m feeling a lot better. Can we please go home now?”
Billy smiled, “They’ll probably want to run a few tests, but I’ll see what I can do. I’ll run down and get a doctor.” He quickly left the room.
“Do you need anything? Water? Food?” Kurt asked.
“You know what I’d really like?” I asked.
“Some damn coffee.”
Kurt laughed, “On it.”
I sat up and kissed his cheek gently, “Thank you. For everything.”
He smiled and walked out of the room.
After a couple torturous tests, I walked out of the hospital. Kurt had a concussion, and I had nothing more than a severe cold, which I was thankful for.
When we got home, I went straight to my bedroom. Ready to lounge around for a day. Just call it taking a sick day from life. Kurt was mad because Billy wouldn’t let him do any yard work with a concussion, which I found out was Kurt’s job here at the mansion. He was the outdoor maintenance man.
Seconds after I flopped down on my bed, Kurt trudged in my bedroom after me and plopped down on my purple, oddly shaped loveseat. “I think my identity was just ripped from my grasp.” He said.
I let out a hoarse laugh, “You don’t say?”
“I do say.”
“What are we talking about?”
“I thought you knew.”
We sighed. It was going to be a boring week.
“So what do you want to do?” he asked.
“I have no idea.”
“Well you’re no help.” He stated blandly.
Kurt grunted and I got the impression that he may be a bit bored. Obviously.
“I have a question.”
“Of course you do.”
“Yep.” I said, “Are you like… Irish or something?”
I snapped my fingers, “I knew it! That was my second guess.”
“Sure it was.”
“It’s just that you don’t talk in Brit terms, so I figured maybe Irish instead. Sometimes they’re similar.”
He sat up and rubbed his head gently, “My mom was straight from England. Came here when I was eleven.”
“So that’s why you only have a little bit of accent, you picked up on regular talk.”
“Actually you guys are the ones with the accent to us.”
“Yeah, but if you went to England for a bit you’d pick our accent too.”
“I’ve always wanted a British accent.” I stated.
Way to make conversation, I thought, Aren’t you the rootenest tootenest cowgirl in the whole Wild West.
Kurt and I made small talk for a half hour or so until I fell asleep. Surprisingly, despite my almost-week in coma, I was exhausted. I’m not sure if he fell asleep, but when I woke up, he was on my loveseat holding his head in his hands.
I glanced over at the clock; it was three am. “You okay?”
He nodded, “I just can’t sleep, my head is pounding.”
“I feel like I’m going to barf.” I said, plopping back in bed.
Kurt patted the seat next to him.
I got up and wrapped my throw blanket around me before walking over and sitting down next to him on my weird loveseat. I tossed the one end of my blanket over his lap and laid my head on his shoulder. “We’re just walking accidents aren’t we?”
He nodded, “Only when I’m with you.” He sighed, “You’ve been here for what? Nine days?”
“Three if you don’t count my coma days.”
“Right,” he said, “Anyways, you’ve been here three days and you’ve already gotten me lost, pulled me out of school and given me a concussion.”
I laughed quietly, “Yeah, sorry about all that.”
“It’s okay.” He said, “Besides, I don’t regret a single second of it.”
I tensed at those words, “Oh.” I answered, unable to say anything else.
There we go again, Way to keep conversation cowgirl Kali.
Kurt sighed and snuggled into me. I picked my head up and kissed his cheek, “Goodnight Kurt.”
The next morning, a knock at the door woke me up. I sat up to see Will (the chef) come in with a platter in his hand, containing a bowl of chopped up fruit, eggs, bacon, oatmeal and orange juice. He smiled when he saw Kurt and I curled up on the loveseat.
Setting the tray down at my desk he whispered, “Billy has already went to work, so you don’t have to look so panicked,” he winked at me, “And I can keep a secret, but not so sure about those maids, so stay on your toes.”
I smiled at him, “Thanks Will, you’re a life saver. And thanks for breakfast, it smells great.”
He nodded and headed out the door, closing it behind him.
I smiled at Kurt. His head was cradled in the nook of my shoulder and he was snoring very quietly. I giggled and pushed some of his dark brown hair out of his face. “Hey sleepy head wake up. William brought us breakfast.”
Kurt’s eyes opened slowly, he looked at me with a groggy grin. “Well good morning sunshine.” He sat up slowly, “Best sleep I’ve ever had.”
I felt my cheeks get warm, and quickly got up from the seat and went over to the tray. “Looks like he brought up some oatmeal, eggs, bacon and a little pitcher of orange juice.”
“Did he know I was in here?”
I shrugged, “I don’t know, he normally only brings me a cup of orange juice, one egg and some bacon.”
He smiled, “I’m the one who eats oatmeal with fruit. Looks like we have a little spy.”
“He says not to tell the maids because they’re snitches.”
He just nodded and walked over to pour himself some orange juice. “So what are todays plans?” I asked.
He shrugged, “The schooling thinga-ma-bob, then maybe we could go ice skating?”
I punched him in the chest, as he laughed, “That’s not even funny I think I will go to a real skating place next time. You know? Like one that’s not over a frozen pond.”
After our breakfast-in-bedroom, Kurt and I sat through a two-hour study session that included independent variables, a virtual tour of Washington’s house, a diagram of the Earths layers, Rosetta Stone lessons and a 35-problem vocab quiz.
After all of that, I concluded that I was ready for a catnap. I curled up on the stuffed leather couch in my pajamas and wrapped my blanket tight around me. Flicking on the TV, the news was the first thing on.
“Today,” the news lady said, “Denver’s most talked about ring of schools re-opens.”
I heard a whimper escape my lips.
“With a security increase and metal detectors in the entry doorframes, Denver middle and high school are taking extra safety precautions.”
The television showed students filing into the high school, stopping after they walked through the front doors before they continued through. I noticed how there was a lag in the amount of students normally attending school. Many parents I assumed had decided to keep their kids out of school and even possibly homeschooled than send them back into the dangerous world.
“Unfortunately, the elementary school continues to stay closed, saying that after a personal call through every family in the school, it seemed that they would have less that half of the students returning at this time.” The camera unfocused from the woman’s face so you could see the background. She was standing in front of Denver Elementary. “Many students have been seeing therapists and doctors to talk through what they’d seen that day. We will never understand how incredibly hard it would be to watch your classmate die or be shot right in front of you. This is Sandra Pettero from DCN, back to the station.”
An older man at an anchors desk appeared on the screen, “The school is still currently under lockdown as police to their best to get more information. It has been a tough month for the community, but thanks to prayers and sympathetic words, we’re getting through it together.”
I clicked the TV off. “It has nothing to do with sympathetic words!” I shouted at the television. I felt tears burst into my eyes, “Sympathy doesn’t bring them back.” I whispered as arms wrapped around me.
It was Kurt. It was always Kurt anymore, and I had a feeling… it’d be Kurt for much longer too.
A Month Later
I nodded, “Ready. Nervous, but ready.”
“You’ll be fine.” Kurt assured, “Your teachers know what not to talk about when they’re around you.”
“That’s not what I’m worried about,” I confessed, “I totally humiliated myself on my very first day.”
“You’ll be fine, Angel.”
“Why do you call me that?” I blurted.
Kurt just shrugged, “Because. It’s what you are.”
“I am no angel.”
He grunted, “That’s your opinion.”
“It’s the truth.”
Kurt put the Jeep in park and got out, with me close behind. Clutching my bag close to me, I stayed on his heels the whole way into the school. There were murmurs of surprise as we made our way through diligently, but I made it a point not to acknowledge them. The only time I let go of Kurt’s hand was when I got to my first period class. “I’ll see you at lunch, okay?” he said.
I nodded, “Okay, see you then.”
With five minutes left in my fifth period class, a girl next to me started talking.
“I’m Kali.” I said, working up a smile.
“I know. Everyone knows who you are.”
I sighed, “Of course they do.”
She shook her head, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said it like that.”
I shrugged it off, “No it’s fine, really, I understand.”
She smiled, “Anyways, I just wanted to say that I really admire you for staying strong despite everything you’ve gone through.”
Instinctively, I pulled my sleeve down further.
The bell rang and I bee-lined it out of the classroom and towards the lunchroom. I wanted nothing more than to be with a familiar face. I rounded the corner and immediately ran into what might as well been a brick wall. I looked up at the brick wall and pasted on a sarcastic smile, “Thanks for that.”
He flashed a model worthy smile, “No problem.” He held a hand out for me to take, but I ignored it a quickly gathered my books.
“I see you’re also fluent in sarcasm too.” I commented.
He nodded, “I’m Jace.”
“You’re cute. You new?”
I nodded, “Yeah.”
He smiled, “Well I have to get to class. See you around, Kali.”
I looked at him weird at the way he said my name. It was all edge-of-your-seat. Not just, “Bye Kali!” It was like, “Goodbye, Kali.” It reminded me of something out of a corny romance movie. Player.
I laughed at myself for a moment as I realized how weird my thoughts sounded. Gathering up the last of my books, I made my way towards the cafeteria. I groaned the second I walked in. Since stupid Jace stopped me in the hall, I was late. And since I was late, the lines were ten miles long. I spotted a couple guys Kurt hung around with and walked over to them.
“Hey, is Kurt around?”
A tall guy named John answered, “He’s in line, he got here a little late.”
“Oh, well can I leave my stuff here?”
The boys nodded unanimously.
I walked to the back of the line and leaned against the wall patiently. A minute passed, and suddenly my phone vibrated. I pulled it out to read the text. It was from Kurt.
Come stand up here w/ me.
I stepped out of line for a moment to look down the line, and sure enough, Kurt was in the middle of the line. I sent him a text back.
I heard u can’t cut in line or it’s ISS. This skool is strict, huh?
I waited a moment until my phone vibrated.
We r also not allowed to text in skool, but u broke that rule didn’t u?
I scowled down at the message before sending a text back.
Fine, but if I get in trouble, u get to tell billy whos idea it was.
I waited a moment then read his answer.
I looked around to be sure there were no teachers around, then booked it to were Kurt stood in line. “There, was that so hard?” he asked.
“Yes it was.”
After lunch, bio and an agonizing gym class, I finally made my way out of the front doors of the school. I went to the Jeep and waited patiently for Kurt. The student parking lot after school seemed to be the place for social hour. I had no idea where Kurt was, but I could imagine that he was somewhere, with someone, having a ginger little conversation while I waited for him to bring me the keys to my Jeep.
A few minutes after my patience point, I climbed out of the Jeep and started around the parking lot, where hardly anyone had left yet. There were groups of girls crowded around little cars and groups of guys crowded around big trucks. Then there were more girls around larger cars and more guys around smaller trucks. I figured those were more of my kind of people.
I walked over to the girls, even though I didn’t know them. “Hi, I’m new here, and I need some help finding someone.”
Most of them smiled at me, “Sure, who?” a girl asked.
A couple girls giggled, but the girl I was talking to kept a serious face, “I’m not sure where he is, he normally doesn’t hang around here long. I haven’t seen him out here yet.”
I sighed, “Okay, I’ll go find him. Thanks anyways.”
She smiled, “You’re welcome…?”
“I’m Ashlin” she held out her hand and I shook it.
“Nice to meet you Ashlin.”
“Nice to meet you Kali.” She said in a fake british accent, “Why so formal?”
I shrugged, “I don’t know anyone yet.”
“Well now you know us. These are my friends Tara, Courtney, Melissa and Taylor.” Ashlin said, gesturing to each girl one by one.
“Well, now I know a whopping ten people.” I said with fake enthusiasm.
Ashlin laughed, “Well who else have you met?”
“Besides Kurt?” I said, “Um, two of his friends, some girl named Kes and some guy named Jace.”
“You’ve met Jace?” she asked astounded, “How?”
“Brick wall practically ran me down in the hallway.”
Taylor let out a humorless laugh, “Figures. He probably did it on purpose.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
Courtney shook her head, “Never mind her, she just has bad past with him.”
“More like bed past.” Melissa added.
Ashlin smacked her, “Shhh!” she turned back to me, “Sorry about them, anyways, we’ll talk to you later, okay?”
I nodded and made my way away from their crowd. After absent-mindedly circling the parking lot once, I ran into another familiar brick wall that just ‘magically’ appeared out of nowhere.
Jace smiled down at me, “We have to stop meeting like this.”
“You have to stop running into me.” I insisted.
“Why are you pacing the parking lot anyways?” he asked.
I put my hand on my hip, “Not that it’s any of your business, but I’m trying to find my ride home.”
He shrugged, “I can give you a ride home.”
I let out a humorless laugh, “Actually, I live with my ride home and he happens to be taking my car so I kind of have to go home with him.”
“A brother?” Jace asked.
“No.” I snapped.
“Then what? Is your dad still in high school?”
I felt a pang in my chest at the mention of my dad. “Just- just… Have you seen Kurt Mathews?”
Jace nodded, looking partially concerned, “Yeah, he just came out of the school right before you ran into me.”
“You ran into me.”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night sweets.” Jace said.
“What would help me sleep at night would be knowing I had a reliable ride home.”
“Well, maybe you should go give your brother-cousin-boyfriend-dad-guy a piece of your mind tough girl.” Jace said in a smug voice.
“You just-” I took a breath, “Never mind, I’m done here. Goodnight Jace.” I began walking away.
“Don’t call me that.” I called over my shoulder.
I could practically see Jace smirking at my back as I walked away.
I got to the Jeep and got in without a thought, but nearly had a heart attack when I looked over to see Kurt in the drivers seat.
“Where were you?” he asked.
“Looking for you.”
“Sorry, I had to stay back and talk to my teacher.”
I shrugged, “It’s fine.”
“So, I saw you were talking to Jace.”
I nodded, “Yep. He’s… uh… quite the guy, aye?”
“Oh,” Kurt chuckled, “He’s quite interesting.”
I punched his arm, “Just shut up and drive.”
I groaned and tossed my pencil at the door as it opened. “Can we please not poke Kurt’s eye out with a flying pencil?” Kurt asked a he entered.
I laid my head down on my notebook. “Sorry Kurt. Writers block.”
“Understood.” He said, walking to my closet.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Uno momento por favor.” He called from the closet.
“You should know that I’m currently failing spanyish.”
Kurt came out of the closet with a box and set it on the floor. “What’s that?” I asked.
Sitting down, he answered, “These are a bunch of old family photos.”
“Where were they?”
“In the cubby.”
I sat down next to him by the box. “You mean the creepy little door in the corner of my closet?”
Kurt nodded, “Yep.”
“Well how are these supposed to help me?” I asked.
“Well, I thought if you looked at these pictures, you might get some inspiration, you know? The way that writers base characters off people in their lives? Well maybe you can base part of your story on the places, people or situations in these photos.”
I couldn’t help but smile, “How’d you come up with this so fast?”
“I’ve been thinking about it since I found out you were a writer.” He confessed.
I was a loss for words. “That’s so sweet, Kurt.” I managed.
He just smiled at me. “Anything for you, Angel.”
Before I knew it, I had my arms around Kurt’s neck, and I was kissing him. I don't know why I did it... It just felt so right. Kurt was stunned stiff at first, but eventually loosened up and wrapped his arms around my waist. And for a moment, I forgot. I forgot about mom, about Alan, about Billy, my cousin, and his wife. It was just Kurt and I, and that was a feeling I didn't want to forget. My dad always told me to live each moment like your last... was this what he meant?
Kurt pulled away and smiled, “I’ve been waiting to do that since you spilt coffee on me.”
“Then why didn’t you kiss me sooner?”
“I didn’t know if you liked me.” He answered.
I laughed and kissed him again, “Well I didn’t know I did until now. But you’re like… my best friend now.”
“Woah, friend zone?” Kurt said, flopping onto his back on the carpet.
I laid down with my head on his stomach, “Nah, not friend zone, obviously.”
“Good, because I was worried there for a bit.”
I propped myself up on my elbow and gave him a sideways look, “Dude, have you seen yourself? You’re attractive enough to get any girl you want.”
“But I don’t.”
“What do you mean you don’t?” I asked.
“I don’t really have girlfriends.”
He shrugged, “I just don’t like losing people.”
“Ah,” I said, “Sensitive guy, aye?”
He sat up and looked at me thoughtfully, “Let’s just say I don’t have a reliable past with females.”
“What do you mean?”
He shook his head, “Let’s not talk about it.”
There was silence for a moment.
“So how’s your writers block?” Kurt asked finally.
I smiled and kissed his cheek, “Let’s just say I’ve found some inspiration.”
The school week was uneventful. It was school, homework, dinner, and then bed… everyday for five days. By Friday, I practically ready to run out of the school singing ‘Oh Happy Day’, but I figured it might make a bad impression on my first week back.
I was sitting in the Jeep waiting for Kurt when Jace came to my window and began knocking. I rolled my eyes and pressed the button to put the window down. He grinned at me.
“What do you want?” I asked.
He faked a look of hurt, “Gee thanks Kali.”
“Actually,” he said, “I was wondering what you’re doing tonight.”
“I have a date.”
“With who?” he asked defensively.
“My pillow pet, blanket and California King.”
“You have a California King bed?”
“What’s your point please?” I asked exasperated.
“I was going to invite you to the bonfire tonight.”
“Dude,” I said, “It’s January.”
“But it’s not as cold here as normal places, and as said, there will be a bonfire.”
I sighed, “I will still be freezing to death.”
“Come on, Kali. You’re new and I invited you to a social event. It’ll be good for you. Meet some new people. Seriously, come and bring whoever you want.” Jace pleaded.
I sighed loudly, “We’ll see, Jace.”
He smiled, “Great. See you then.”
“Maybe!” I shouted.
I rolled my eyes and turned back around in my seat as I saw Kurt walk out of the school. He made his way over to the Jeep and jumped into the drivers seat. “Good news.” He announced. “We’re going to a beach bonfire tonight.”
The beach is not exactly where I wanted to be on a January night. It wasn’t too cold, for once, but it was enough for me to want a winter coat. Kurt had informed me that unless I would be participating in the Polar Plunge I probably shouldn’t bother with a bathing suit. I took that as a “duh” moment, but didn’t bother to express that to him.
At the moment, we were in Kurt’s car heading towards the beach that would no doubt be freezing considering that we have to conjure in the ocean factor. I had decided on a pair of leggings, covered in jeans and a tank top covered in a t-shirt and an oversized sweater. Kurt had sworn up and down that I’d be hot by ten minutes into the bonfire, but I was able to laugh off that possibility the second I stepped out of the car onto the beach.
“You okay there?” he asked as I pulled my jacket tighter around me.
“Just cold.” I confessed.
He just gave me a half smile before wrapping an arm around my waist and heading towards the fire. It’d been a week and Kurt and I hadn’t really discussed any further into whatever relationship we had. He’d made subtle hints, like taking my hand sometimes or kissing me cheek before I went to bed or class, but nothing more. Nothing as exciting as our kiss earlier in that week, and to be honest… I kind of wanted that. I couldn’t tell if he was nervous or just not interested in me anymore. He seemed to be more affectionate with me lately, so I just continued as is.
We approached the bonfire and I could already see kegs lined up under a small pavilion with picnic tables. I looked up at Kurt in time to see him roll his eyes. Crowds of people mixed and mingled excitedly as they continued to bounce to the music coming out of a large speaker next to the kegs. Within seconds, a buff guy with no shirt on ran up to Kurt and put a friendly hand on his shoulder. “Hey man.” The boy said.
“Who’s this?” David asked, gesturing to me.
“This is Kali.”
“Your sister?” he asked.
I waited to hear Kurt’s answer, “My girlfriend.”
I felt my stomach flop. Oh no. I had a sudden fear that something bad was going to happen. Something bad happened to almost everyone I loved.
Did I seriously just say- well, think- that I loved Kurt? Oh no. That wasn’t good. What if something happened to him? I suddenly felt a little dehydrated.
I tapped Kurt’s chest, “Hey, uh, babe…” I said awkwardly, “I’m going to go get a drink.”
“Oh okay.” He said, nodding.
I started off towards the picnic tables as Kurt turned back to his conversation with Daniel. As I got to the pavilion, I was glad to find a familiar face there.
“Oh,” Taylor said with a wave of her hand, “I knew that.”
I nodded, “Sure you did.”
“I did!” she cried defensively, “So what’ll it be?”
I squinted to try and see what there was, “Any water?”
Taylor smiled, “Softie, aye?”
I just nodded.
“You should probably at least learn how to down a drink even if you don’t like it. It’s some big thing here. I don’t know why. I don’t like to drink either.”
I smiled, “I’ll get right on learning about that.”
“We could be good friends.” Taylor said, handing me a bottle of room temperature water.
“Then allow me to re-introduce myself.” she stuck her hand out, “Taylor Lewis.”
I shook her hand, “Kali Parker.”
“Give me your phone.”
I gave her a weird look, slowly reaching into my jeans pocket, “Why?”
She laughed, “I’m not going to steal it, I’m going to put my number in.”
“Oh.” I said quietly, handing it over to her.
She messed with it for a moment before handing it back, “Now go get back to your man candy.”
I laughed, “Let’s not call him that.”
“Then what should we call him? Prince Kurt?”
I shook my head; “We’ll talk nicknames later. Good?”
Taylor nodded, “Good.”
I made my way back over to Kurt who was done with his conversation and waiting patiently for me. He smiled when he saw me walking towards him. “I see you made a friend?”
I nodded, “Indeed. That’s Taylor, I’ve met her before.”
He tossed an arm around my shoulder and pulled my head in so he could kiss it. I felt my cheeks get hot. “How about you go over and talk to Taylor and them while I go talk to the hostess?”
I worked up a smile, “Sounds good, text me later?”
I walked over to where Ashlin was standing with her posse. They welcomed me with smiles. “Hey Kali! Where you been?”
I shrugged, “Around. Getting used to the place.”
“How you liking it?” Courtney asked.
I shrugged, “It’s fine, but homesickness is tugging at my collar.”
Tara frowned, “How long are you staying here anyways?”
I felt my heart drop to my stomach. I couldn’t tell they girls that my mother was currently unfit to care for her own daughter, so I just shrugged, “It’s open ended.”
Melissa smiled and nodded. “Cool, well I hope you’re liking it.”
I nodded, “I am, a lot.”
“Oh God.” Taylor groaned, putting a hand to her head.
“What is it?”
I turned quickly to see a sloppy Jace making his way toward us. I rolled my eyes. This guy urked me in ways I didn’t understand.
“Heeeeeeey ladies.” Jace called.
We mutually groaned.
“What do you want Jace?” Taylor asked.
“Pfft.” He slung an arm around my shoulder, making me want to gag. “I ain’t worried with you anymore.”
“Well, I’m worried with you.” I said, pulling his arm off my shoulder.
“Why is that?” he slurred, sliding an arm around my waist.
“Because,” I said, trying to remove his arm from it’s hold. But it only tightened.
“Come on Kal. Let’s go have some fun.” He said, scooping me up and turning away from the bonfire. I shot the girls a look of panic as I realized I wasn’t going to be able to get out of his muscular grip. What if he raped me in his drunken state? Taylor nodded and took off running into the crowd.
Jace got to the parking lot and finally dropped me. I shoved him away with all the power I had. “What the hell is wrong with you Jace?”
He smiled, “Nothing.”
I backed away from him as he stepped towards me. “Jace. You don’t want to do that.”
I laughed humorlessly, “Other than the fact that your sloppy drunk? Kurt would kick your ass!”
Jace laughed, “I’d like to see him try.”
“Will do.” An angry voice said from behind me.
I turned around to Kurt. I stepped toward him, “Kurt don’t. He’s drunk.”
Kurt ignored me and punched Jace square in the face, causing him to stumble backwards and fall. “Don’t screw with my girl.”
I looked at Kurt, “What the heck Kurt? I said not to bother! He is drunk!”
He just shook his head, “Get in the car, we’re going home.”
I just shook my head before stomping off to the car. Why would he do that? Jace hadn’t done anything. He was drunk. He wasn’t in his right mind. I just… didn’t understand.
I was so angry with Kurt. I didn’t speak a single word with him the whole way home. Who was he to do that? Called me his girlfriend once then has all rights to punch a drunken guy who flirts with me? Really? Was it that big of a deal?
He pulled the car into the parking lot and I jumped out quickly. I rushed for the front door, but he caught my arm and whirled me around to face him.
“What do you want?” I snapped, “Going to punch me now too?”
Kurt ran his hands through his dark hair, “Listen Kali,” he said, his accent sounding stronger than usual, “I’m sorry. I know that was wrong of me.”
I nodded, “Y-yes. It was. He didn’t know what he was doing.”
“But he still put his hands on you!”
“He was drunk, Kurt! He was delusional! You had no right! I am plenty big enough to take care of myself! So what? You think that just because you called me your girlfriend that you’re allowed to go defending me?” I found myself shouting by this point and possibly even more frustrated than I was when the whole thing went down. “I lose everyone I care about anyways. So don’t try to take care of me. It’s just as bad for you as it is for me.” I turned to walk away, but his grip tightened and he turned me back around to him, smashing his lips against mine.
A bit of a surprise to me as you might imagine, readers, but I didn’t fight it. I’d wanted him to kiss me like this again since the very first time, but I’d lost most of my hope. Now here it was-
“I love you.” He whispered.
Um, did I just die?
My eyes popped open. No. No. No. No. Hold your tongue Kali. Hold your tongue!
“I… um… can’t.”
He looked confused, “You can’t what?”
“Why not?” he asked.
I just shook my head as I felt tears begin to form. I turned around quickly and ran into the house and straight to my bedroom. I slammed the door and pulled out my phone. With shaking hands, I dialed my mom’s number.
“Hello.” I said, tears quaking in my voice.
“Honey? Are you okay?”
I shook my head, even though I knew she couldn’t see it, “No, mom. I need to come home.”
“Just slow down baby, and tell me what happened.”
So I told my mom the story. I told her about the pictures and the week and the bonfire. I told her about Ashlin and her posse, and Jace, and everything Kurt had done for me.
“Baby, I’m just having a hard time finding the problem.” She admitted, “You’ve got a group of friends, careful teachers, and a guy who loves you, what more do you need?”
“That’s the point mom.” I whispered nasally. “He cares about me and something happens to all the people I care about. They’re all taken away from me.”
I could practically hear my mom frown in the staticy silence of the phone. “I’m sorry life is so hard for you Kali. I never thought it would turn out this way.”
“I know you didn’t mom. It’s not your fault. But is there a way you could get me home?”
She sighed, “I will talk to the services and give you a call tomorrow.”
I nodded, “Okay. I love you, mom.”
“I love you too.”
The day went by slower than I thought possible. I just wanted it to be tomorrow. I didn’t bother to come out of my room for dinner or anything. I just texted Will and asked him to bring me up some grilled cheese and tomato soup. He did and I thanked him and expressed how grateful I was. He insisted to know why I wouldn’t come out of my room, but I thought that was a weird thing to talk to our chef about.
But he was my current best friend.
I explained to Will the outside basics. That Kurt had expressed how he cared about me and I had a total freak out. Will had informed me that teenage girl problems weren’t his level of expertise and suggested I call Kay.
At almost one in the morning, I picked up the phone.
“Girl! It is one in the freaking morning. You know I sleep.”
I smiled. God I missed her.
“I need someone to talk to.”
She groaned, “I thought you had a pillow pet.”
“I do, but he’s very quiet.”
“It’s a he?” she asked.
“Duh.” I answered, “It’s a frog.”
“Frogs can be girls.”
“Not in my book.” I commented.
She groaned and I heard her sheets crinkle underneath her, “So what’s up?”
“You know Kurt?”
I could practically hear her nod, “The cute British one?”
“No, the Armenian cloth sewer.”
“Isn’t that the name of a princess?”
I shook my head, “No, that’s Anastasia. Anyways- wait when was the last time we talked?”
“Um, like, a week and a half ago.”
“Oh- so you don’t know I kissed him?”
Kay gasped, “You kissed him?!”
“SHHH!” I snapped, “Let’s not be girly about this.”
“Ugh, Kali, why do you have to be so… so… anti-girl?”
“I am plenty girl!”
Kay laughed, “Anyways, mom says I need to go to bed. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
I narrowed my eyes, “You just wasted away what should have been a very serious conversation.”
She giggled, “Call you tomorrow, love. Nighty night!”
I clicked off the phone and tossed it next to me on the bed. Tomorrow. Everything had to happen tomorrow. Well… technically today. It was one o’clock in the morning. Somewhere along the line, I guess I fell asleep, because I don’t remember a thing after that thought.
I woke up to the annoying ring that comes with iPhones. I quickly picked it up and slid it open.
“Honey? It’s me, mom.”
“Oh.” I let out a relieved breath, “Mom. Thank God.”
“Listen, honey, they think that you’ll be able to come home by the end of the week!”
“Really?” I shouted, “That’s great!”
My mom rambled on, but I couldn’t really hear her. I was too deep in thought. I was going to miss this place. I was going to miss the school and the town and Billy and Kurt. Kurt. The first person I’d ever loved outside family and Kay. I was going to miss him like hell. I felt a few pangs in my chest.
“Mom, I have to go.”
“Okay honey. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
I tossed the phone to the side and ran out of my room. I didn’t know where I was running or why, but I needed to run. I ran down the stairs and through the halls, and before I knew it, I busted into a spare room and collapsed on the floor. Kicking the door shut, I rolled onto my back and looked over that the baby grand that sat in the corner. I looked at the huge wall mural and at the ginormous canopy bed that had to be bigger than mine.
But suddenly I felt… like I belonged. This room felt relatable. It was left behind and unfinished, just like I was. Then it dawned on me that I hated who I was. My life was never easy! Why couldn’t it ever be easy? I felt tears start to gush from my eyes. Why? God told me my time for healing was here. Why wasn’t he healing me? Why weren’t things getting easier? Why did I have to be like the girl in the mural? Alone and abandoned. Unfinished and left behind. Why didn’t I get to have a happy ending? I already had a hard life… why couldn’t it just all be over?
“Why?” I moaned. “Why aren’t things getting better?”
I dragged my feet lazily over to the desk that held paintbrushes and pencils lying on top of a long piece of canvas. I gathered them up in my arms and just looked at them. Then before I knew it, I threw them as hard as I could at the mural. “WHY DO I HAVE TO BE ALONE?” I shouted. “I didn’t DO anything!”
I collapsed on the floor. I was mad. I was mad at myself. I was mad at Kurt. I was mad at mom, dad, Alan and uncle Billy. I was even mad at God.
I was a writer. I was always the best at bringing things to an end. I wanted this to end. All of it. Now.
I gathered up all my courage and ran for the door. The second I reach for the knob, it swung open. Kurt was standing there; looking wide eyed, tired and worried. “What are you doing, Kali?”
“I’m-I’m… um…” I stumbled over my words, “I’m going home. At the end of the week.”
Kurt face drained of color, “You… you’re leaving?”
I nodded, “I can’t stay here any longer.”
He looked as if he were going to reach out and touch me but decided against it, “Listen Kali, if it’s because of what I said yesterday- I’m sorry. I know that it was too soon, and too much to put on you all at once. I mean what I said, but if it’s too awkward for you, you don’t have to think of me in that way anymore. But please, don’t leave.” He begged, “I see the look in your eyes when you’re here. You love this place. You love being with your uncle and love not having to worry about someone all the time. You may not love me, but you love it here. And you shouldn’t give up what you love.”
“I don’t even get to give it up.” I said, plopping down on a dusty chest. “It all gets taken from me first.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I just lost my baby brother, Kurt! I held his dead body in my arms!” I shouted, “He died to save a little girl, but it wouldn’t have happened if I were just there on time!”
“Kali, just because you lost your brother doesn’t mean you’re going to lose everyone you care about.”
“Then I was taken from my mom! The only family immediate family I had left! And they shipped me here! Away from her and my best friend and my writing class and everything that meant the world to me!” I sighed, “Not to mention my dad.”
“What about your dad?”
Kurt looked puzzled, “What do you mean?”
“I mean he died. Awhile back.” I snapped.
Kurt jerked his head to the side, “Your- your dad? You think he’s dead?”
“I know he is dead!” I shouted. “He died here. Working with my uncle on something. He is buried in the cemetery down the road.”
“Have you ever seen the grave?” Kurt asked.
My voice faded and I just shook my head, “No. I wasn’t even allowed to come to the funeral. They said they didn’t want to upset me.”
“Kali.” Kurt whispered, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but… your dad- he’s alive.”
I slammed the door of the Jeep shut and pulled my scarf tighter around my neck. I’d never snuck out before, and I wasn’t looking forward to getting caught, which I knew I would. But I had to find my dad. I had to find out that truth. If he really was alive, I wanted to know why he left his family behind.
Kurt jumped in the drivers seat and started the Jeep hesitantly. I flinched as he slammed the gas and booked it down the drive and out the gates. “So where are we going?” I asked, loosening my hold on the bar above the glove compartment.
“Your dad’s office building.” He answered, not taking his eyes off the road.
It was weird, in a way, hearing someone talk about my father in the present tense. Mom had always talked like…
Mom. She had lied to me all these years. She had told Alan and I that our father was dead! That he died in an accident! How could she do that to us? I made it a point to give her a lecture if I really did meet my dad on this rainy evening.
I leaned my head against my window and sat quietly as the rain hit it. I watched intently as raindrops raced down the side of the Jeep, silently routing for the little drop to win. Cape May raced by outside as Kurt passed a ‘Thanks for Visiting!’ sign. I let out a long breath as nothing but trees blocked my view. “Where is his office anyway?”
“It’s in Chamberlin.” He answered, not taking his eyes off the road.
I felt the awkward wave through us like static electricity. I shivered and tried to focus back on my raindrops. But I couldn’t. I stole glances at Kurt in the corner of my eye. His hands were tight on the wheel, his knuckles looking a sickly shade of white. There were light circles under his eyes from lack of sleep and his hair was tossed all over the place. He sighed and rubbed his eyes with his free hand. The browns of his eyes looked black and I notice he looked really pale despite his normally tan tone.
“Are you okay?” I asked suddenly.
He nodded, tightening his grip on the wheel, “I’m fine, why do you ask?”
I shrugged, “You look sick.”
He shook his head, “Just tired, that’s all.”
“You’re really pale, and your eyes are dark.”
He rolled his eyes, “That’s because they’re brown.”
“And my eyes are green, let’s state some more obvious.” I said sarcastically.
“Your eyes are blue, oh smart one.”
“What?” I asked, flipping the visor down, “They’re green.”
“They are not!”
Kurt let out a laugh, “You’re so defensive.”
I sat back in my seat, “What ever you say perfectionist.”
I nodded, “You heard me.”
He laughed quickly, “Oh, that’s a low blow.”
“What? That I’m pointing out your little pet peeve?”
He laughed, “Yeah. Who told you?”
“The maid.” I shrugged.
“Maradith?” he asked, “Oh, she’s a nasty one.”
I laughed, but he didn’t. He’d quieted and he was focused on the road.
Well, it was nice to get out of the awkward for a whole twenty seconds. I thought bitterly.
He hit the brakes. “We’re here.” He said, reaching over to unbuckle my belt.
I climbed out and shut the door behind me, looking up at the ginormous office building that stood before me. Chamberlin must be the city part of New Jersey… well… one of the city parts. Cape May was more of the ‘countryside’ around here, I assumed. Kurt came to stand next to me. “Are you ready to meet your dad?”
My stomach churned. Was I ready to meet the man that abandoned my younger brother and I? Meet the man that left his wife to lie to his children? Of course I wasn’t.
“Yes.” I said.
Kurt gave me a concerned look before walking towards the front doors of the office building.
Inside, the lobby was painted a dull brown and the room was decorated in dark red and gold accents; VERY high class. As people in the office passed by us, I suddenly felt very self-conscience in my jeans, t-shirt and sneakers. Everyone in the lobby was dressed in fancy suits with ties or dressy blouses and pencil skirts. Without waiting for Kurt, I walked up to the lobby desk that sat directly inside the door.
The woman behind the desk had a permanent scowl pasted onto her face and would probably have been quite pretty if she wiped it off her face and plucked her impending unibrow. She raised one side of her eyebrow at me, “May I help you little girl?”
I sent her a scowl right back, “I am not a little girl.” I snapped, “I’m here to see James Parker.”
Saying my dads name was awkward for me. Definitely not something I was used to. The woman just looked at me. “Mr. Parker isn’t in right now, the doors are about to close for the night.”
“It’s seven o’clock.” I pointed out.
The woman rolled her eyes. “He’s not in.”
“Can you tell me when he’ll be back?”
She sighed, “Look, girl, Mr. Parker isn’t just some salesman and he doesn’t want any cookies. See yourself to the door.”
I had a few choice words for her on the tip of my tongue.
“He’s my dad.”
The woman’s face cleared. She looked truly astonished. She pressed on a button on her Bluetooth in her ear. “Mr. Parker?” she said, “Kali is here.”
I was taken aback. She knew my name, and I hadn’t even told her. She called me by my first name, not ‘Ms. Parker’. Was it really possible?
“Okay.” She said, “I’ll send her up.” She clicked the button on her Bluetooth and smiled at me with a grin like a cat. “Down that hall and go into the first elevator on your right. Go to the top floor. If anyone asks what you’re doing here… just tell them your name.”
I nodded, my mouth still in the shape of an O. I was about to meet my dad… again. I was about to see my daddy. The man that raised me. The man that loved me and taught me how to ride a bike. The man who taught me and loved me and took care of me… the man I thought was dead.
The elevator dinged and the doors opened. Kurt and I exited hastily and looked at the glass doors that stood before us. They were like the glass room in the hospital, I thought. You couldn't see in from the outside, but you could see out from the inside.
Kurt's hand brushed mine and I suddenly had an overwhelming want to reach out and grab it. But I didn't. It was unintentional. Just an accidental brush of his hand that meant nothing... but at the same time, I felt some reassurance. I reached out to take his hand, but quickly pulled mine back against my leg. I couldn't care about him. I just couldn't.
"Are you ready?" he asked me.
"No." I answered truthfully.
"We can go home if you want. And come back later when you're feeling up to it." He offered.
I shook my head, "No, Kurt. I have to do this. I have to know."
"But you don't have to know now."
I gave him a thoughtful look. How was I going to get this across to him? "Do you want me to leave on Friday?"
He sighed loudly and looked at the door, "Let's go."
Despite the situation I was in at the moment, I smiled... until Kurt grabbed the door handles. My whole body tensed and my stomach did a flip. For a moment I thought I might be sick. What are you to do when you're suddenly faced with the fact that one of the most important people in your life was really alive?
Kurt swung the doors open.
Back at the manor, Billy paced in his office, trying to think of a way to keep Kali in Cape May. He'd enjoyed seeing her and seeing her happy like never before. Kali might as well have been his daughter... he treated her as so. She was one of the most important people in the world to him. He loved that no matter how much he spoiled her or brought her nice things; she'd always be a humble person similar to him.
Billy walked over and picked up his cell phone. After three rings, his sister picked up. "Hello?"
"Billy? Is something wrong?" his sister asked.
"Yes." Billy answered, "I wanted to know what I could do to keep Kali."
Kali's mother gasped, "You can't keep her! She's not an item! She's my daughter and she wants to come home!"
"Marge, she loves it here. If only you could see the way she looks at the world when she walks outside in the mornings! The carefree look in her eyes is so foreign; I can hardly tell if it's real! She loves it here! She loves the freedom, Margery. You can't take that kind of happiness from her."
Margery sighed and Billy realized whom he was dealing with. Margery Parker. The big sister that was stubborn as could be. Dangling a loogey over her face didn't even work when they were kids.
"I can't Billy. She wants to come home."
"Talk her out of it, Marge. She's going to regret it. I just know it." He begged.
"You can't keep my daughter! Especially in a place so close to her you-know-what!" his sister scolded.
"She's not going to find out about James! She'll be fine, Margery! And you can come live with us too!"
"And do what, Billy? Leave my job? Leave my house? Leave the town where my kids were born and raised and where my son is buried?" her voice shook, as she spoke, "I can't do that Billy."
"You can work for me! Or I can get you a job at a real publishing company!" he purposed.
He could practically hear her shaking her head, "I'm perfectly fine at The Chronicle."
"It's just some small town magazine, sis."
"It's good enough for me."
"But is it good enough for Kali?" he snapped, "You know she wants to be a writer! A real one too! She wants to write stories and get them published and shared! And you know where she wants to go to get there- don't you?"
Margery was silent.
"Just say it Margery. Accept the fact that your little girl doesn't want to live in Colorado her whole life. She wants to go to New York! She needs to live in a town and be able to share her pieces with others instead of living in the boon docs twenty miles from her own school!" Billy took a breath and pinched the bridge of his nose, "Think about Kali. She lost her brother and her dad. It's not good for her to be living in the town where all that happened."
"This is where she belongs. It's not like you live in New York either." She said quietly.
"It's closer! She won't feel less discouraged about going if her whole family is closer. Besides! Back home she has all those bad memories. Do you really think it's good for her to drive past the cemetery everyday? Do you think it's good for her to walk into school everyday and sit in writing class thinking about how she could have saved Alan?" he paused and lowered his voice, talking slower he said, "It's not healthy for her to be able to look out the window of her high school and see the place that she held her baby brother in her arms as he died."
"She shouldn't have to leave the town that she grew up in."
Billy sighed, "Margery, they took Kali from you because you weren't keeping her best interest in mind. I'm giving you the chance to do just that. Do you want your daughter back, or not?"
Margery closed her phone and tossed it onto the couch. She looked up at the ceiling and sent up a silent prayer. With a sigh, she walked over to a mahogany bookshelf and looked thoughtfully at it. This bookshelf never held books. Kali was really the only person in the house who read. This bookshelf held mostly photographs and little art projects or trinkets from her children's childhood. On the middle shelf, there was a large black frame that held a picture of her family.
Margery tilted her head over to get a better view of the photo. The photo was taken when Kali was about eleven and Alan was three, on a beach in Florida. Kali was wearing a light blue one piece; her hair was lighter brown then and caked with sand from the ocean. She was wearing Margery's over-sized sunglasses and smiling with a huge cheesy face.
Margery had her arms hooked around Kali's neck and was smiling contently at the camera while trying to hold her large beach hat on her head. Kali's father, James, was standing behind Margery with a young Alan sitting on his shoulders, smiling open-mouthed with his crooked baby teeth.
Margery smiled as she remembered how Alan fought to avoid getting in the ocean. James had held him, trying to convince him the water was safe, but the second the water touched Alan's foot, he'd jumped out of his fathers arms and run back to the beach with his mother. He was completely dry in the picture with sand all over his arms and legs.
Margery frowned, remembering how happy their family had once been before James left her. She had thought it'd be too hard for the children to accept that their father was leaving for two years to live somewhere else and leave their mother, so she had told them their father passed away and told James not to bother coming back. She knew he knew he was hurting their family and hurting their children. She had always thought that him choosing his career over his children was an absolutely horrible, and that if he was going to leave them for two years at a clip with a month visit in between, he might as well not even be in their lives.
Now Kali was in New Jersey. So close to where her father was. Margery couldn't begin to imagine how terrible it would be if Kali found out he was alive. Her stomach did a flip as she realized that she'd find out someday. As she realized she'd have to tell Kali and Alan someday. It was like a wrecking ball had struck her when she realized that her son had died thinking his father was dead. Thinking he was going to find him waiting for him. But instead he got to Heaven only to find that his mother had told him a cruel lie and that he was all alone.
With tears in her eyes, Margery picked up her phone and opened the phone book. She flipped to the page and quickly dialed the number.
"Hello?" she said, trying to keep her voice steady, "Yes, I need to know the rate for a medium-size moving van to take my belongings to Cape May, New Jersey."
Kurt pushed the doors open, and I involuntarily gripped the end of his shirt. Just inside the glass doors, there was a silvery loveseat, and sitting on the arm with red cheeks and puffy eyes, sat my dad, crying.
I dropped to my knees, tears pouring from my eyes. “Dad?”
I looked up at me, his brown eyes welled up and wet with tears. I knew I should be relieved, but hatred ran my blood cold at this moment. I love my dad more than anyone. ANYONE! And he didn’t care enough to show up at his own son’s funeral.
Kurt’s hand landed on my shoulder protectively. He slid his hands under my arms and pulled me to my feet, “Come on Kali. I shouldn’t have brought you here.” He said, his accent stronger than usual, which I’d realized, happened when he was holding back tears.
I pulled away from Kurt a little to harshly and staggered over to my dad. He just sat there, on the arm of the sofa looking up at me. His black hair, I saw, was now gray around the sides and he had more wrinkles than he was when I was eleven. But he was still bulky, as always. Now I was close enough to touch him- or for him to touch me. But I didn’t want to. It’d be all too real if I touched him. It’d suddenly be a dream that I wouldn’t be able to wake up from.
My father just looked at me. He didn’t speak. He just shook his head at me. So I spoke. “Why?” I managed in a shaky voice, “Why did you leave us?”
“Kali.” He whispered. “You’re so beautiful.”
“Answer the question!” I shouted.
Within seconds, Kurt was behind me; more for my support than his comfort.
My dad shook his head, “Your mother told me not to come back.”
“She wouldn’t say that. She loved you more than anyone. She would never want you to leave your family!”
He was silent.
“You left her, didn’t you?” I accused, “You left mom and she told you to just stay away!”
He just looked at me. He looked older than he was. He had permanent frown lines that had once been laugh lines. He traded his crow’s feet for the scowl lines between his eyebrows. I just shook my head at the suited man that sat in front of me. I didn’t know if I even wanted to call him my father anymore.
“Come on Kurt.” I said, not taking my eyes off my dad.
Kurt snapped to attention and held the door open for me to walk through. I turned from my dad and went to the doorway. Last second, I turned around to get one last glance at him. “Glad to see you’ve made a good life for yourself, James Parker.”
Kurt took me home and I didn’t really talk to either him or Billy when I walked in the door. I didn’t want to tell Billy- mostly because I wasn’t supposed to even know. But I did. And it was going to change me. And soon- they’d find out.
That night, around midnight, I found myself in the spare room, staring up at my aunt’s unfinished mural. I looked at the girl staring at nothing. She didn’t even get anyone else in her life. It wasn’t fair. All the other characters had someone. Even the old woman had a husband once. Why was the girl alone? Why did she have to be the odd one out?
Slowly, I dragged my feet over to the corner where the mural faded and picked up the paintbrushes I had thrown earlier in the day. Picking up one of the paint pallets, I dipped my paintbrush in my water bottle and tossed it onto the desk. With an unsteady hand, I played with the pallet of paint until I got the right shade of blue, then I started to continue on my aunts wall mural.
Kurt stumbled into his bedroom at half past one and flipped on the light. His dad sat up in the spare bed and looked at him groggily. “Kurt? What are you doing up?” he asked.
Kurt tensed, “Sorry- I couldn’t sleep.” He lied, “What are you doing home?”
His dad fell back into his bed; “Billy said he was taking a personal day, so I’m home.”
Kurt walked over and slid under the blankets of his twin, “Why was Billy taking a personal day? He never takes a day off.”
“Something with his little niece.” His dad answered, “Always trying to please the little brat, I’m sure.”
“She’s not a brat, dad.” Kurt corrected.
“How would you know?” his dad snapped, “Billy has had you catering to her every whim since she got here. She’s spoiled rotten.”
“Exactly,” Kurt said, “I’ve been with her every hour of every day. I know she isn’t a brat.”
Kurt heard his dad sigh loudly, which meant this conversation was over. He rolled over and faced the wall. Holding his eyes closed for several minutes didn’t seem to work though, he just couldn’t find sleep.
The only thing on his mind, was finding a way to keep Kali here in New Jersey. Whether she loved him or not.
The next morning, I woke up to my name being called by a female voice. I lazily sat up and pushed away the sea of paintbrushes and dry pallets that had made their way around me. I had fallen asleep on the floor last night, wrapped in the large golden comforter that had once been on the gigantic bed in the spare room. I yawned and looked up at the mural. Smiling proudly, I lightly touched the beginning of my work with my fingertips. The body of the girls mate had finally come into picture and I was quite proud of it. Turned out that painting wasn’t much different than drawing with pencil and paper.
I had just one dilemma. I wasn’t very good at making faces, and I couldn’t even think of a face to put to the boy. There was no face that I felt was right for it.
I rolled off the pile of paintbrushes and pallets and dragged my feet to the source of the voice calling my name. Stealthily, I creaked the door open and peeked around the corner to see Billy pacing the hallway. Suddenly, I was worried that he’d find me in here in the room of his late wife. When he was distracted, I ran for the twisted stairs that led up to my bedroom. At the top, I busted into my room and found Kurt sitting on the edge of my bed with his head in his hands.
“Kurt? What are you doing in here?”
Kurt’s head shot up and he looked at me with big eyes. “I’m in trouble, Kali.” He said, “I made a big mistake.”
“W… What do you mean?”
My bedroom door flew open behind me and Billy came in with happy eyes. I turned back to Kurt. He was standing now, looking nervous, yet normal. It was actually sort of fascinating.
“Uncle Billy?” I said, “What’s going on?”
He looked back and forth between Kurt and I, and then answered hesitantly, “I have a surprise for you.”
I put on my best fake smile, “Really?” I asked, “What is it?”
“Cover her eyes, Kurt!” he said excitedly.
Kurt came up behind me and placed his hands over my eyes gently, pushing me forward. His body was warm against my back and I found it reassuring. But I found the roughness of his breathing rather frightening. He’d looked sick lately and now his breathing felt ragged and uneasy. I slid my arm behind my back and lightly touched my fingers to his stomach. His whole body tensed, but loosened quickly. I ran my fingers in slow circles, hoping this would sooth him in some way. It did to a certain extent. His breathing slowed from it’s fast ragged breaths, but changed into slow shaky ones. This worried me.
“Alright!” my uncle called, making me pull my hand back down to my side. “Uncover her eyes!”
Kurt moved his hands away, and standing in front of me in a navy blue suit, was my mother.
Taylor walked into her house and slammed the door behind her. Her mother came around the corner looking concerned. “Taylor? What’s wrong?”
Taylor pushed her annoying blond curls out of her face and scowled at her mom, “Jace.” Is all she said before stomping off into the kitchen.
Her stepdad came around the corner suddenly and Taylor nearly crashed into him. “Woah, woah, woah. What’s the rush little doggies?” he asked.
Taylor’s mom pulled her apron off and tossed it over a kitchen chair, “Jace. As usual.”
Taylor’s stepdad gave her a sideways look, “What’s the big deal now?”
Taylor sighed loudly, “He’s being annoying because he was messing with this girl at the bonfire while he was drunk and she turned him down. He won’t tell anyone who the name is so everyone thinks it was me! It’s everywhere and I’m tired of hearing about it.”
“Well do you know who it was?” her mother asked.
Taylor nodded, “She’s my newest friend. You know the one I told you about? Kali Parker?”
Her mom nodded, “Oh yes I remember you telling me about her.”
Taylor looked at her stepfather. His face had gone a pale white and his eyes were distant. “Are you okay?” Taylor asked, “Hello?”
Her mother grew a concerned look on her face, “James? James what’s going on?”
“Mom?” I asked. “Mom what are you doing here?”
She smiled, “I thought we could stay here for a little while.”
“What do you mean stay?” I asked, “I was supposed to come home Friday!”
She shook her head, “No, Kali. You love it to much here.”
“Mom! I never told anyone I loved it here!” I shouted. Most of the people in the room were looking at me now. I sighed… it was speech time. “Mom, I told you it was beautiful here. I love the school and the town and the house.” I glanced over at Kurt who looked like he was about to barf, “You know I’ve found things here that I have fallen in love with, but it’s just all too good to be true.”
“But it’s not. It’s all real.” Kurt said awkwardly.
My mom and Billy shot him a surprised look, “But it can all be taken away from me. I- I don’t want to love all this and then lose it. I’ve already lost too much.”
Kurt set a hand on my shoulder and I saw a threatening look pass over Billy’s face for only a moment, then it was gone. “Kali. I don’t know how many times I have to say this to you.” He began, “I see the way your eyes light up when you’re here. When you got off that plane you looked lost and afraid. Like a lost puppy. Now… now I don’t know where all of this came from, but in your eyes now I see confidence and belief. Like nothing I’ve ever seen before. You changed so fast.”
I gave him a long look, not knowing how to answer. Let your poetic words flow out of you like they flow out of your fingers and onto the paper. You are a writer Kali. You have a mind of gold. A mind that persuade, change and love all at once.
“You.” I said blandly.
“What?” he asked.
“You, Kurt.” I continued, “You’re where it all came from. You taught me how to be carefree and see the world through new eyes.”
There was a hopeful look in his eyes.
“Kali,” my mother began, “You don’t-”
“Shhh!” I snapped, “Let me finish!” I turned back to Kurt, “I know it’s only been a short time, and I feel so weird saying this in front of everyone, but I will regardless.” I took a deep breath, “I never thought I would ever be able to love someone outside of my own family. And I honestly don’t know how I found myself loving you, Kurt.”
I heard a low intake of breath from my mom and a low groan from my uncle’s throat. He was so over protective.
“Kali!” a deep voice boomed.
I turned around to face the front door. In the doorway, stood-
“James?” my mother gasped.
“Kali.” He said breathless, like he’d been running.
“What are you doing here?” my uncle hissed menacingly.
My dad shot Billy a threatening scowl, “I’m here to see my daughter.”
“James.” My mother said, “You need to leave.”
“I think that’s for Kali to decide.” He snapped.
Everyone looked at me. “You need to leave, James.” I said. “Now is not the time.”
“Kali, I am your father! And you will address me as so!”
I gaped at him in astonishment, “You dare call yourself a father?” I shouted, “You left us behind! You came half way across the country for what? A job? Another woman? Or both?” I looked over at my mother for a moment then back to James, “Do you even know that Alan is dead? He died thinking he was going to be able to see you when he got there but instead you’re here! And you let him die thinking that you’re dead too!”
He just looked at the ground, “I never-”
“You never what?” I shouted, “You never thought about it that way? Well I have! I can’t believe you would even be able to live with yourself knowing that you missed the last six years of your son’s life and now he’s dead! I don’t care if mom would’ve told you to move across the globe! A real man wouldn’t have left his children!”
Suddenly, Kurt’s hands where on my hips, steadying me. As if telling me it was okay to stop now. It was okay to be done with all of this. It was okay to collapse and cry if I needed to. It was time to end all of this. It was time to decide.
I turned to my mom; “It’s going to take awhile until I forgive you for telling our father to just stay away forever. We loved him.”
I turned to my dad; “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive you for leaving us. We got along without you for six years and I’ll do it for six more and six after that if I have to.”
I turned to Billy; “Billy, I know you just want what’s best for me. And I know you know that I love it here, but it’s a hard choice for me to make. I mean, Alan and I grew up back in New Port.”
I couldn’t look at Kurt. I didn’t know what I wanted to say, so I just took a deep breath and jogged up the stairs to my bedroom.
I sat on my bed staring out the windows as light rain began to hit it at a little past eight. There was a knock on my door, “Come in.” I said.
The door creaked open to Kurt standing there. His hair was wet and hung in his eyes while his light blue shirt drooped low and dark, waterlogged.
I stood up and ran over to him, pushing his hair out of his face, “Kurt you’re already sick! What were you doing out in the rain?” I looked around rapidly for a blanket or a towel or something. “You need to get out of that wet shirt!”
I reached for the ends of his t-shirt, but he grabbed my wrists. I looked up at him concerned. “Kurt?”
“Kali.” He whispered, “Kali, please stay.”
I gave him a sideways looked, “What?”
“You heard me,” he said, “Please stay. I love you so much and I don’t want to lose you.”
I shook my head and tried to pull away, “We don’t know what love is Kurt.”
His hands dropped my wrists and moved up to place one on each of my cheeks. “You said it yourself.” He said, “That you never loved anyone outside of your family like you do me.”
I didn’t know how to answer. I had said that. I couldn’t deny it anymore, “I-”
“Shhh.” Kurt said, slowly pressing his lips to mine.
I took a deep breath through my nose and flinched as his icy hands ran down my neck and to my lower back. My hands dangled loosely at my sides, and I quickly pulled them up looking for a place to place them. I knew I should push him away. It was what my mind was telling me to do, but my heart was hammering and telling me different. I wrapped my fingers into the sides of his shirt and slid my fingertips underneath to his warm, muscular torso. My fingertips trailed up his chest, sliding against the fading wetness that had leaked through his shirt. I loved the way his skin felt against my cool fingers.
Kurt pulled Kali tighter against him as her fingertips touched his warm skin like little drops of ice. Her fingers gripped the edges of his shirt and pulled it over his head. He breathed out in relief. He was freezing in those clothes. Kali continued to kiss him just as though nothing was happening. She didn’t go any further or try anything else, which he was relieved about. Kurt had only ever kissed two girls, Kali was his second and even now he felt he was doing things wrong. What if he was a bad kisser? He almost pulled away, but Kali’s kisses had gone from tender and slow to quick and hungry, he wondered if it would offend her if he pulled away.
Instead, Kurt slowly pushed her away and smiled at her.
“Is there something wrong?” I asked and Kurt gently pushed me away.
He crooked his head sideways, “Am I doing something wrong?”
I lifted an eyebrow and smiled, “Yes.”
He frowned, “Well what is it?”
“I’ll tell you if you tell me something.” I said, pushing some hair out of his face. “Well, two things… deal?”
He smiled, “Sure, what are they?”
“Why have you looked so sick lately?”
He looked at his shoes, “I was worried you were going to leave me because I told you that I loved you.”
I stiffed at those words. He hadn’t said it like that in awhile and it would take some getting used to.
“Okay.” I said, “And second, why did you say that you didn’t have a reliable past with females?”
A flash of hurt crossed his face, “I… um…”
I lay my hand on his cheek, “I’m sorry, you don’t have to tell me.”
He shook his head, “No it’s okay- it’s just that… my last girlfriend…”
“What about her?”
He bit his lip, “She um- she died, a year or so back.”
A low gasp escaped my lips, “I’m so sorry Kurt.”
“It’s okay… really. It’s just that she was my first kiss and the first girl I really cared about. I don’t think I loved her like I do you… but she was my best friend for a long time before we got together and before her plane crashed.”
I walked over and laced my arms around Kurt’s neck, “I know how it feels to lose someone you love. But it’s time to heal. Don’t let it affect your future.”
He smiled at me, “But if I hadn’t let it affect me… I wouldn’t have you.”
I felt myself blush, “Kiss up.” I said.
Kurt laughed, “Actually I’m taller than you, so technically, you’re the kiss up.”
“Ha-ha. Joke of the century.” I said, lightly pecking his cheek.
The bedroom door creaked open and I peeked through my eyelids to see who could possibly be coming into my room at three in the morning. Kurt and I had fallen asleep on my oddly shaped loveseat and I didn’t bother to wake him up when I’d woken just a few minutes ago.
I saw the outline of my mother and my uncle come in. I snapped my eyes shut and curled back into Kurt’s shoulder.
“Awh look at her.” My mother whispered.
“Look at him.” Billy said in a rough voice.
“Oh shut up, Billy.” She said, “I’ve never heard her so compassionate with her words.”
“I’ve only read them.” Billy said, “And even then they weren’t that deep.”
“I can’t believe she’s in love.” Mother whispered. “She probably hates me for lying to her.”
“I don’t think so.” Billy whispered, “She just needs time.”
I stood up, “I don’t need anymore time.”
Mom and Billy turned around to face me, “We didn’t mean to wake you.”
I shook my head, flipping on my lamp, making Kurt’s eyes flutter open, “I don’t need time.” I continued, “I’ve decided that I’m staying.”
My uncle’s face broke into a huge smile, “Really?”
“On one condition.” I said, “My mom gets this room.”
“Why would I take your room?” mother asked.
“I want the spare room.” I said to my uncle, “The one with the big mural and the piano.”
My uncle looked taken aback, “That was-”
“I know.” I said quickly, “That was your wife’s room. But I’ve been spending a lot of time in there and-”
“You can have it, Kali.” He said quickly, “Whatever it takes to keep you here. You were just like her anyways, no wonder you like the room.”
I smiled and looked over at my mom, “We can exchange the furniture, if you want. The stuff down there is a bit more adult-like.”
My mom just smiled, tears were welling up in her eyes.
I sat back and smiled up at my mural. “Finally.” I mumbled, chewing on the end of my paintbrush. I pulled it out of my teeth and mixed together some more skin tones. I lightly dabbed the paint under the eyes of the girls mate and made his eyes a little darker.
“It’s perfect.” Kurt’s voice said from behind me. He got up from my weird loveseat and sat behind me, wrapping his legs around me.
“Really?” I asked.
“Oh of course.” He said, lightly nibbling the tip of my ear, making me shiver.
It had been a month or two since I’d decided to stay here in New Jersey, and being with Kurt still hadn’t blended with me yet. I still got butterflies when he kissed me and jitters when he touched me.
Since I decided to stay, we’d switched my room to the mural room and painted all the walls accept for my mural wall. I hadn’t heard much from Taylor lately. There was a text now and then, but she hadn’t really talked to me anywhere else but school. I didn’t know why and I was kind of afraid to find out.
My mom had gotten a job somewhere professionally publishing and making much more money. We decided to leave Alan’s grave in Colorado where it belonged. I missed my school sometimes… but I was quite happy that I wouldn’t have to be at school everyday and reminded of what happened if I were just a few minutes sooner.
I was finally starting to my healing stage, and it was much better with Kurt around. He seemed to help me cope better. I turned around and faced him.
“I’m glad I finally gave him a face.” I said.
“Me too.” Kurt answered, leaning in to kiss me.
He ran his fingertips down my back and made me smile. I remembered how my dad… well my sort-of dad telling me to live every moment like my last. I may not really be a fan of my dad anymore, but I’d learned every moment was insanely important. “Every moment.” I mumbled under Kurt’s lips.
I pulled away and smiled at him before turning back to look at my mural.
I had given the boy a face… and oddly enough, he looked a lot like Kurt.
6 YEARS LATER:
Now, here I am. I'm almost twenty-three, writing my very own love story. My tragic love story. My handsome husband is sitting over on the bed, and I'm sitting at my desk, looking up at my fading mural. My uncle still lived in the house, but I now owned it. I was paying with it by my book sellings.
My love stories were always the most popular.
I didn't keep all the money though. I donated a lot to Alan's school. Some to the hospital. And I gave a huge chunk some to Amber, the girl in the hospital. Sixteen and with a child.
I find myself smiling a lot nowadays. More than usual. Maybe it was just the freshly married thing, or maybe it was just because my healing process was done. It was time to live now. It was time to live my life.
Enough of it for Alan and I both.