Another weekend comes quickly at Arden Prep. The students file out of the school in groups, smiles brightly on their faces. I’m staring down at my phone, typing away at a text message. I’ve been messaging Bash for days now. I’ve gotten to know him pretty well, and he was a breath of fresh air. We’d set up a date for tonight, and I was nervous.
When I was Greer Thomas, there wasn’t anything or anyone that could make me nervous. When I had dates, it was always the boy who was the nervous one. There was something about this date with Bash that made me nervous.
Maybe it was the fact that he was an older boy. He was almost nineteen, in his first year of college at the university twenty miles away. He had a cousin that lived in town, that’s why he’d been near Arden Prep that day. He was studying business and accounting. Which was all too familiar. My father had been accountant. Of course, Bash couldn’t know that.
I’m not even paying attention to where I’m going, so when I make it safely to my car I’m a little surprised. I slide in behind my wheel and start the engine. One of my favorite songs plays loudly over the spears. For once, my eyes don’t seek out Kaleb Nixon. He’s barely showed up to class at all since that afternoon in the diner. I’m pretty sure he was avoiding me like I was avoiding him. Maybe he’d finally realized that we were better off apart.
Thankfully, Leo is home when I get there. He’s sitting at the table surrounded by papers when I get inside. He runs a hand through his hair that’s sticking up all over the place. He barely notices me as I slip into the dining room.
“Oh, Greer, hey. How was school?” He asks, sighing and scratching the back of his neck.
I shrug and take the seat before him. “It was fine.”
“Everything’s okay?” He asks, his eyes reverting back to the paper before him.
I nod, “Yeah.”
Our conversation is interrupted when his cell phone rings. He sighs and answers it quickly, “This is Agent Martin.” His eyes widen and he straightens up quickly. “When?” I hear a frantic voice on the other end but can’t hear what it’s saying. “Alright, I’ll take care of it. I’ll be there in about thirty minutes.” Leo hangs up the phone a second later and starts gathering up his papers.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
He sweeps up the papers and moves away from the table, “I’m sorry, I have to go out of town for the night. Something at work needs my attention.” He barely looks me in the eye as he leaves the dining room. I follow him. “You know the drill, right? Doors locked at all times. There’s an emergency number on the fridge if something happens. I’ll have someone patrol the area tonight.”
“Relax, Leo. I can handle myself for one night.” I say.
He stops in front of his door, “I know. I just don’t like leaving you here by yourself.”
“I’ll be fine, promise,” I reassure him.
He nods and shuts himself inside his room. This actually might be a blessing in disguise. That would mean I could hang out with Bash tonight without Leo giving him the third degree. I ran towards my room and instantly started digging through my closet for something to wear.
It’s an hour later that Bash texts me that he’s on his way. I stare at myself in the mirror. My hair is curled around my face and my makeup is light. I’m wearing my favorite sundress, black converse, and my trusty jean jacket. I left my glasses off as well.
Five minutes later, there’s a knock on my front door. A bright smile crosses my face as I pull open the front door. Bash stands on my front porch, looking way too handsome to be here for me. He’s wearing a blue button up shirt and casual jeans. He has his blonde locks slicked back from his blue eyes. He gives me a charming smile. “Greer, you look amazing!”
I smooth my skirt down, “Thank you, you don’t look too bad yourself.”
He blushes, “You ready to go?”
I nod, grab my small purse, and follow Bash to his car. He opens the door for me and I slide inside. It smells almost brand new inside his car. The leather seats almost shine and his floors are spotless. I wonder if he cleaned his car just for me.
When he slips in behind the wheel, he asks me once again if I’m ready. I nod and he turns on his car. A soft pop station plays over the speakers. He reaches forward and turns down the music. He backs out of my driveway and pulls us onto the main road.
“You hungry?” He asks.
“Always.” I laugh.
“Good.” He nods. “You been to the Italian restaurant right out of town?”
“I haven’t yet, no. I’ve been meaning too.”
“Great, I got us a reservation.” He tells me.
We make casual small talk until we reach the restaurant. Bash gets the door for me and I step out on the blacktop. He leads me into the restaurant where he gives the host his last name. The host nods and leads us to a small booth in the back of the restaurant. I slide in so I’m the one facing the front door. It was a habit I formed since my parents were murdered. It made me feel safer to see all the exits where ever I went.
“What do you like?” He asks me as his eyes scan the menu.
I don’t even hesitate, “I always eat the same thing at every Italian restaurant I go to spaghetti.”
“I’m thinking of the eggplant parmesan.” He tells me.
“I’ve never tried it.” I shrug.
“Really? Well, you can have a bite of mine then.” He tells me.
It’s not long that the waiter comes to take our orders. We order our food and drinks and then wait. Bash asks me more questions about myself, and some are harder to answer than others. I keep my answers vague and try to move the conversation to him.
“Do you have siblings?” I ask him.
“Nope, just me.”
“When we met, you said that you moved here because of your uncle. Do you not live with your parents?” He asks. He instantly notices the sour look that crosses my face. “You don’t have to answer.”
“No, it’s fine. It’s just that my parents died a few months back. I live with my uncle now.” I explain, gulping.
“Oh, wow. I’m sorry, Greer.”
“It’s alright.” I give him a weak smile. We’re saved from the more awkward conversation a minute later when the waiter brings our food. I thank him and dig into my big bowl of spaghetti.
I’m leaning back against the booth, completely full when Bash offers me dessert. As much as my stomach protests, I can’t skip dessert. I agree happily and scan the dessert menu. My phone interrupts my thoughts. I thought I’d turned it off.
“I’m sorry.” I apologize to Bash and take my phone from my pocket. Frustration seeps into my veins when I see Kaleb’s name flash across my screen. I instantly ignore the call. I can’t believe he would have the nerve to call me. “Sorry about that,” I say again and turn my attention back to the handsome boy sitting across from me.
“Was it important? You could’ve answered it.” He tells me sweetly.
“It wasn’t important, trust me.” I laugh.
A second later my phone rings once again. I groan and slip from the table. “I’m sorry, just let me take this really quick.” I wait until I’m outside to answer the call. “What?” I growl.
“Greer?” It isn’t Kaleb on the other end.
“Irene?” My heart stops beating.
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t know who else to call.” She sounds like she’s been crying.
“What’s wrong? Is Kaleb okay?” Worst case scenarios flash across my mind and I don’t know why they scare me so much.
“Something happened, Greer. He was really upset. He took off, left his phone at home. He shouldn’t even be driving.” She stumbles over her words so fast it’s hard to keep track. “I just thought maybe you’d seen him.”
I sigh and close my eyes, “I’m sorry, Irene. Kaleb and I aren’t really on speaking terms right now.”
She lets out a shaky breath, “It’s okay, it was a last-ditch effort to find him. I thought he’d go to you, honestly. Can you just keep a look out for him for me?”
“Of course. If I hear anything, you’ll be the first person I call.” I tell her.
“Thank you, Greer. I hope I didn’t interrupt something important.” She tells me.
“No, you’re okay. If you find him, will you call me?” I ask.
“Yes, sweetie. Enjoy the rest of your evening.” She says goodbye and then ends the call.
I stand outside, staring down at my phone, for another few minutes. I’m not sure why my heart won’t stop beating. The mere thought of Kaleb being missing causes a strange feeling to grip my chest. I don’t like it.
I finally make my way back into the restaurant and towards Bash. He instantly notices the look on my face, “Everything okay, Greer.”
“Yeah.” I lie automatically. Then I shake my head, “No, actually. I’m sorry, Bash. Can you take me home? I have to take care of something.”
He doesn’t even protest before he’s out of his seat. “Yeah, no problem.” He hands over his keys. “Go wait in the car. I’ll just go pay the bill.”
“Thanks.” I nod and make my way out of the restaurant. I slide into the front seat and let out a nervous breath. When Bash gets in the car a minute later, I can’t help but feel guilty. “I’m really sorry about this, Bash.”
He shakes his head, “Hey, no, don’t worry about it. If it’s important you have to take care of it.”
“I really didn’t want to end our date early,” I reassure him.
“Don’t worry about it, we can have a do-over.”
I blush, “Really?”
“If you’re up for one, yeah.”
Bash drops me off at my house a few minutes later. I tell him he doesn’t have to walk me up and exit the car. He waits until I’m at my door to drive away. I unlock my front door and step inside the dark house. I flip on a few lights and cross the house to go into my bedroom. I’m about to find my car keys when someone pounds on my door. I wonder if I left something in Bash’s car.
I make my way to the door and see the shadow of someone standing on my porch. I flip on the porch light and open the front door. Kaleb is hunched against the brick wall by my door. He looks unsteady and his eyes are glossed over. He squints down at me through the bright lights of the porch. I’m instantly aware of the blood streaming down the side of his face.
“Kaleb!” I gasp, stepping closer to him to inspect his face. My eyes flick back to his car, but it’s in perfect shape. That means he wasn’t involved in a wreck.
“You were on a date.” He says in a breathy voice; his words slur together. He’s had too much to drink. Worse, he drove himself here.
I ignore him and pull him into the safety of my house. “What happened to you?” My voice is frantic as I bring his face into my hands. The blood is coming from a gash in his temple. I pull him into my kitchen and sit him into a chair. He doesn’t even protest, he doesn’t look like he has the strength to fight me.
“You were on a date with pretty-boy.” He repeats. “I waited until he left.”
I wet a towel and then dab it across the gash to clean the blood. He doesn’t even flinch. I wonder how much alcohol he’s consumed to make him numb. He stares up at me with unfocused eyes and they make me uncomfortable.
“His name is Bash,” I say as I clean up the rest of the blood.
“Did he take you to watch a documentary? Or to a debate?” He asks, laughing at his own joke.
“No, he took me to dinner,” I tell him. I throw the bloody towel away and dig in the first aid kit for a butterfly band-aid.
He scoffs but says nothing.
“You’re an idiot.” I snap at him as I place the band-aid over his wound. “Gosh, you’re such an idiot.” He doesn’t argue. I step away from him to throw the trash away. He watches my every move. “Irene called me, you know.”
His eyes seem to focus on me for a moment, “She what?”
“You heard me. She called me while I was on my date. She was scared out of her mind, Kaleb. She’d been crying.” I explain to him, crossing my arms over my chest and leaning back against the counter.
"Merda.” He curses and runs a shaking hand over his face. It’s then I notice that his knuckles are bleeding as well. I move forward and pull him to his feet. He sways and his hands grip my shoulders. I lead him to the sink and run water over his split skin.
“What happened?” I ask as the pink water flushes down the drain.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” He says in a tired voice.
“Why’d you come here then?” I ask.
He studies me for a moment, before shaking his head, “I don’t know.”
I roll my eyes, “I can’t believe you’d get behind the wheel drunk like this.”
“Can you not lecture me right now? I can’t handle it.” He pleads.
“You chose the wrong place to come then. You should’ve known I’d yell at you.” I snap.
He nods, “You’re right.” He turns towards around and stumbles towards the door. “I’m leaving.”
It’s not very hard to stop him. I place my body between him and the door to stop him. I place a hand against his chest to hold him back. “Oh no, you’re not going anyway like this,” I warn. “You can sleep on my couch.”
His eyes search mine quickly, “Why?”
“I’m not having your death on my conscience okay? If I let you walk out that door and get in your car, you won’t make it to morning.” I explain.
He doesn’t say anything as I lead him towards my couch. I help him peel off his jacket and shoes. He settles down on the couch and stares up at me as I cover him with a throw blanket. His eyes are already closing. “Thank you, dork.” He says, his word barely audible as he drifts into a drunken sleep.
I sigh as I stare down at the damaged boy on my couch. My mind is spinning. Why would he come here of all places? I wondered what happened to make him run away. I wonder what made him feel like my place was the last resort.
I step away from him, pulling my phone from my pocket. I dial Kaleb’s number. Irene picks up on the second ring. “Greer?” She still sounds frantic.
“Yeah, it’s me.” I sigh. “He’s here, Irene.”
“Oh, thank God.” She sighs in relief. “Is he okay?”
“He showed up on my front porch drunk and bleeding. I took care of him. He’s sleeping on my couch now if that’s okay.” I tell her.
She lets out a shaky breath, says something in Italian, and then answers me, “Thank you, Greer. Really. Thank you for taking care of him.”
“It’s okay, Irene,” I reassure him. “I’ll make sure he gets home tomorrow morning.”
“Make sure to remind him that he’s in big trouble.” She tells me.
I laugh, “Oh, I will.”
“Thanks again, sweetie. I’m sure I’ll see you around.” She hangs up the phone.
I stare down at the sleeping Kaleb a moment longer. I want to hate him for ruining my date. I want to hate him for making Irene and I worry. Instead, when I remember the look in his eyes when I opened the door tonight, hate is not what I feel.