“Seriously, Greer, if you came to yell at me I really need you to leave.” He says to me in a tired, defeated voice. I’ve never seen him like this and a part of me doesn’t like it. The Kaleb Nixon I know is annoyingly cocky and always sports his famous smirk. This boy in front of me looks tired and broken.
I had come to yell at him. I’d come to demand why he punched Jason Peters. I wanted to know why he skipped school. I wanted to yell at him for not being around for me to avoid him. Except now, looking into his tired eyes, I no longer wanted to yell at him.
“I actually came to work on our project. I wanted to see if you had any ideas for the extra credit part.” I told him.
He sighs and runs a shaking hand over his face, “We’re still on that?”
“Yeah, I told you I always do extra credit. Besides, it helps with your grades.” I explained.
“And I told you I didn’t need help with my grades.” He snaps.
“Really? Because you’re barely in class. How can your grades be okay if you’re not there?” I ask.
“My grades are fine.” He repeats.
“Fine, I get it. You don’t have to help with the extra credit, but we’re doing it either way.” I tell him.
He groans and lets out a string of curses in the second language I hadn’t known he spoke. “You’re not going to leave this alone, are you?”
I shake my head, “Not a chance.”
“Fine. I’ll help you.”
“Great! We can start now.” I say, pulling out the notebook I have stored away in my back pack.
Kaleb doesn’t look happy. His eyes skirt to his bedroom door and any moment I expect for him to kick me out. “Whatever, but we’re not working in here. We can go into the den.”
“Why? This is fine.” I shrug. “Do you not want me to see all of your things? A little too late for that.”
He stares at me with a frustrated expression, but doesn’t give me an answer.
“Do you have secrets in here that you don’t want me to find?” My eyes skirt to his bed and then to his closet. “A dead body maybe? Another girl hiding in your closet?”
“Would you shut up?” He snaps. I was mostly kidding, but I quickly shut my mouth. “I just can’t concentrate with you in here sitting on my bed!”
Silence breaks across the room as his words settle around us. Our silence isn’t just tense anymore, Kaleb had officially made it awkward. I don’t know how to react. I avert my gaze from him to look at the floor.
He groans, “Let’s just go, okay?”
I nod and lead the way out of his room. Once in the hallway, Kaleb ushers me towards a set of closed French doors. He pushes them open and inside is a small den. There’s a leather couch facing a big TV. A couple of game systems are store in the entertainment center. Board games and puzzles are piled high on a shelving unit. There’s a box of kids toys in the corner.
“Take a seat.” He points to the couch.
I take a seat on one end and he takes the other. I pull out my notebook and flip it open to our assignment. I stare down at the page, my mind reeling. I can barely focus on the task at hand. All I can think about is the words Kaleb had just said to me.
“Do you sing?” He asks out of nowhere.
“What?” I ask.
“Sing? Can you sing?” He asks again.
I used to sing a lot, actually. My mother taught me to play piano when I was younger. I was involved in every talent show in my old school. I always won in the top three. Singing had always been a passion of mine. It was something I share with my mother as well. We’d all sit around the piano on Saturday’s. My mother would harmonize with me, I’d play piano, and my father would strum his guitar. Two months ago, I would’ve easily answered yes to Kaleb’s question. Instead I answered, “No.”
He studies me for a moment, as if he can read the lie. “You look like you can sing.”
“I look like I can sing?” I laugh.
He nods, but doesn’t say anything more.
“Do you sing?” I ask.
He shrugs, “Some, I guess. I mainly play guitar though.”
“Yeah, I saw. You have a Fender? They’re my favorite.” I beam.
I instantly knew I’d slipped up by the look on Kaleb’s face. “You don’t sing, but you know guitars by their brands?”
I try to cover my tracks, “My uncle plays, actually.”
He nods, studying me a moment, before he moves on. “I was going to say we could’ve written a song as the extra credit.”
“You play guitar though. You could write the music and I could speak the poem. We could put it together in a slide show with pictures describing the words, yeah know?” I say.
“Yeah, that actually sounds cool.” He nods.
I write down our idea. “Awesome, could you get started on the music?”
He nods, “Sure.”
A moment later, we both hear running feet across the floor. The doors to the den fly open. The little girl from earlier stands in the door way. She stares at us with big brown eyes and a wide smile. “Mamma wants to know if your ragazza is staying for dinner.”
I don’t know what the little girl just called me, but Kaleb’s eyes go wide. He’s instantly at his feet. “Sofia, taci !”
The little girl runs off laughing.
“What’s that language?” I question as he closes the doors back up.
He scratches the back of his neck and stays standing, “Italian.”
Of all the romance languages to speak, it had to be the one I find most attractive. Of course.
“Then what did she just call me?” I ask.
I swear his cheeks turn bright red, “A very naughty word.”
I laugh, “No way. She’s like seven.”
“Sofia is six, but don’t let her fool you! She’s got a potty mouth!” He tells me.
“Did you teach her it?”
“No!” He practically yells. “I did not teach her that one.”
He finally sits back down next to me, sighing. He leans his head back against the couch and closes his eyes. He looks exhausted. A part of me wants to ask why, but I bite my tongue. With his eyes closed, it gives me a moment to study him.
“You don’t look like your mom.” I muse.
His eyes snap open, “That’s because Irene isn’t my mom.”
“Oh, I just assumed.”
“If I’m not going to pretend to know your life you can’t pretend to know mine, got it?” He asks in a frustrated voice. He was basically saying that both of our lives were private.