Lord help me, I’m freakin’ screwed.
I’m sitting on a bed in an empty room, staring at the door where Greer Evans just escaped through. My heart was still racing from our fight. I hadn’t meant to yell at her, but she brought out a dark side of me. It was hard to have a rational conversation with her. Especially when she was dressed the way she had been with a guy that she had no business hanging out with.
Even after I had warned her about pretty-boy, she still ran from the room to be with him. I got a bad feeling about him. The problem was, I couldn’t tell the feeling apart from the jealously that turned hot under my skin at the sight of them together.
“Yo, Kale!” Tom’s voice broke through my thoughts. He stood in the doorway with a plastic cup in his hands. “That check of yours just left.”
I want to scream at him that I didn’t care, but he would know I was lying. Before I could talk myself out of it, I was on my feet and pushing past my friend. He called after me but I ignored him. I stumbled outside and watched as pretty-boy helped Greer into his economy car. I slipped behind the wheel of my Mustang and followed them down the street. I don’t know what was going through my mind as I kept an even distance behind them.
All I knew was I had to know that Greer made it home safe. I watched as they pulled up front of her house and sat in his car. I gripped the steering wheel in two tight fists. I pleaded silently for her to get out of the car. Every second that passed that she remained seated inside the car, my chest beat more violently against my ribs. A moment later, Greer kisses him and my vision turns red. He’s smiling brightly as he exits his car and opens her door for her. He leads her to her front door.
I close my eyes. I can’t watch anymore. I rest my head back against my seat and pull in a deep breath. I don’t know how long I sit there with my eyes close. When I open them again, I look one last time up at Greer’s house. I throw my car into drive and pass her house. I stare through her open door as I go. What I see inside makes me hit the brakes fast. All I can see is Greer with her hands on her face and tears streaming down her cheeks. I suddenly can’t focus on anything else but that Bash kid standing in front of her.
I throw open my car door and run up her front lawn. I crash into her front room, yelling her name. My fists shake as I pounce on Bash. I clench my fingers in his shirt and slam him back against the wall. “Get away from her!” I barely recognize my own voice falling from my lips.
My vision goes red and the next thing I know two cops are splitting Bash and me apart. I fight against the pot-bellied cop that has my arms pinned. Greer yells at us to stop. I must have missed something, because Greer looks more frightened then she had a moment ago. I close my eyes and suck in a deep breath.
I blacked out again.
The side of me that’s like my S.O.B father came out and I hope to God that I didn’t say anything that I can never take back. Heaven only knows how many times that’s happened. It used to happen a lot more when I was a kid. That’s until Irene took me in and taught me how to manage it. With Greer around, my rage induced black-outs were harder to control.
Greer is telling Bash to leave now, and I know she’s about to kick me out as well. She doesn’t. She lets me stand there. I watch as Bash kisses her on the cheek and whispers something to her. My vision blinks red for a moment before I quickly get a handle on it. Bash finally leaves and my anger dies a little. I can barely focus on what the cops are saying to Greer now. All I can see is the tears that stream down her face. All I can feel is my finger nails digging into my palms and the beat of my reckless heart.
A third person comes running into the house. Greer jumps into his arms and sucks his shirt with her tears. The cop calls him Leo. I focus on his face and realize this must be Greer’s uncle, they look enough alike. The cop and Greer’s uncle disappear out onto the front porch. Greer turns her frightened eyes to me. Her name falls from my lips, but she cuts me off.
“Why are you here? How are you here?” Her voice doesn’t hold as much anger as it usually does when she’s yelling at me.
In any other circumstance, I would lie. But Greer’s eyes piercing into my skin is like a truth serum. “I followed you, actually.”
“You what?” Her voice is a screech as she screams.
I wince, “Yeah, I had to make sure you got home safe. I don’t trust that guy!”
“You’ve got to be kidding me?” She lets out a dry laugh. “I can’t believe you’re stalking me now.”
“I am not stalking you!” It kind of felt like I was though. Just not the creepy kind of stalking. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“Well, I’m not, okay? Happy now?” She’s crying again.
“No, I’m not happy.” Happy is the last thing I feel right now. Happy is at the very bottom of the list, it doesn’t even register. Anger is first, but not anger at her. Anger at whoever did this to her. Worry is next, an uncontrollable amount of worry that grips my heart tight. There are a lot of other feelings, but I can’t identify them. They’re the type of feelings that I hadn’t let myself feel in years. It’s overwhelming.
Her uncle steps back into the house again. The cops leave with a sad look in Greer’s direction. I have a feeling they all know a secret that I’m not welcome in on. I’m aware of Greer introducing me to her uncle. I don’t know exactly what was said, but I answer politely. “Yes, sir.” Her uncle, Leo, goes on to say that she can’t stay home tonight. I don’t blame him for not wanting her here. Her house is trashed. Greer must be traumatized.
Before I realize the words that fall from my mouth, I speak, “She can stay with me.”
Leo and Greer’s eyes snap to mine. Greer looks surprised at my words. Trust me, I am to.
“I have a guest bedroom and my guardian, Irene will be home.” I explain. “She’ll be safe there.”
Her uncle looks reluctant to say yes. I don’t blame him for that either. I wonder what I look like in his eyes. Do I look like a punk like Bash thinks I am? “Fine, thank you.”
“It’s not a problem.” I say weakly.
Leo pulls Greer away for a moment, speaking to her quietly. Greer looks scared as they speak. I’m again struck with the realization that something more is going on here that I don’t quite understand. Greer steps away from her uncle and rests her back against the wall. Leo steps through the debris on the floor to stand before me.
“I really appreciate this, Kaleb.” Leo addresses me.
“It’s really no problem, sir. Like I said, I just want her to be safe.” I promise him.
“You’ll look after her?” Leo gulps, and something flashes across his face. There’s definitely more happening here than just a burglary.
“Always.” I tell him. He nods and then I step closer to Greer. “You ready to go?”
She nods, her eyes still dazed, “I just need to grab a few things.” She starts walking towards her room, but stops.
“Greer? What is it?” I ask her.
She turns back to me with tears in her eyes, “I don’t want to go in there.”
I nod, “You don’t have to. I’ll pack some things for you.”
She thanks me and lists off some thing for me to find. I nod and make my way carefully to her room. Her door is halfway open when I reach it. I push it open all the way and peer inside. My heart stops beating for a moment. If it’s even possible, her room is even more destroyed than the rest of her house had been. All the drawers from her dresser, nightstand, and desk are pulled out and thrown everywhere. Everything picture, book, and knick-knack she had around her room is no longer on shelves. You can barely see her floor. If I didn’t know any better, I would say that whoever broke into her house had specifically targeted Greer’s room. It looks like someone had been looking for something. I wondered if they found it.
I try to ignore the mess and quickly grab what I can find. I stuff clothes into the first bag I can find. I find her book bag with its contents still inside. I take in a deep breath and leave the damaged room behind. I really hope she doesn’t ask me what I found in there.
Leo hugs Greer before whispering something else to her. He tells us to leave and then watches us walk out the door. Once inside the safety of my car, she gives her uncle a small smile and rests her head against the window.
It takes us longer to get to my house than it normally would. I find myself driving slower with Greer in the car. When I pull into my drive way, Irene instantly comes to stand on the front porch. I’d texted her right before leaving Greer’s house to warn her she was coming.
I’m about to ask Greer if she’s okay, when I realize that she’s asleep. I sit there a moment and stare at her. She looks scared even in her sleep. I reach forward without thinking and tuck a lose strand of her hair behind her ear. She doesn’t even flinch. I exit my car and Irene comes jogging down the front walk.
“What happened?” Irene asks me in her native tongue, Italian.
The language is second nature to me, so I don’t even think about it as I slip into Italian as well. “Her home was robbed.”
Irene’s hands fly to her mouth, “Is she okay?”
I sigh and lean back against my car, “I don’t think so. She’s pretty shaken up. Probably didn’t help that I almost punched her boyfriend in front of her as well.”
“Boyfriend?” Irene’s eyebrows quirk up.
“Oh no. Don’t even think about it, Irene.” I finally switch our language back to English.
“Are you sure it’s her boyfriend?” She asks me, staring into my car at the sleeping Greer.
"Che cavolo, Irene. I saw them kiss.” I groan.
“Doesn’t mean they’re dating, Kale.”
“Would you stop? That’s not even important right now.” I sigh and walk around the car to Greer’s side. I open the door carefully and kneel in beside her. She doesn’t even more. The combination of the alcohol at the party and the adrenaline has worn off, leaving her exhausted. I carefully slip my hands underneath her and pick her up from the car. She stirs softly, but doesn’t open her eyes. “Can you get her bags, please?”
Irene nods and grabs the bags. She hefts them onto her shoulders and follows me as I carry Greer into the house. She barely weighs anything, so carrying her up the stairs is no hassle at all. Irene drops her bags at the top of the stairs.
“Does she know?” Irene asks as she watches me settle Greer into my bed.
I pull Greer’s shoes from her feet and tuck my blanket around her body. I would’ve put her in the guest bedroom, but I feel more comfortable with her in my room. That way I know where she is at all times. It’s not like I’ll be getting any sleep tonight anyway.
“Know what?” I answer Irene as I make sure Greer’s comfortable.
I turn to look at Irene. She gives me her world-famous glare and I instantly know what she’s talking about. “Don’t play dumb, figlio, it doesn’t suit you.”
“I’m not playing. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I insist.
Irene nods, “You can lie to yourself and you can lie to her, but you can’t lie to me. I know you too well for that.”
I wish she wasn’t right.
“It doesn’t even matter, Irene. I’m not good for her.” I sigh, repeating the words I knew deep down.
“As much as you seem to think you are, you’re nothing like your father. Don’t sell yourself short. Goodnight, Kale.” Irene says to me as she walks out of my room, deliberately leaving my door open. I curse low under my breath and plant myself on the floor. I cross my arms over my bent knees and sigh. I kept my eyes trained on Greer’s face, watching every breath she takes.
Irene used to tell me all the time that there was a thin line between love and hate. I never understood the saying until now. She was right. There was a thin line. I just wish I could see which side I was standing on.